'Rookies' to join the ranks

Firefighters induct new members

Three new firefighters were honored Saturday at Craig Fire/Rescue's annual Christmas party, where the department also presented awards to retiring firefighters and the Firefighter of the Year.

After a year as probationary members who take a lot of ribbing and undergo extensive training, Chris Mercer, Steve Lingo and David Brand will join the department as fully privileged members Jan. 1.

"They have stumbled, fallen, got back up and done everything we expected of them," said Deputy Fire Chief Chris Nichols. "Therefore, tonight we're going to award them with the approval of the board."

Fire Chief Roy Mason gave the trio new helmets, jackets and badges at an award ceremony during the party.

The new members began months of training at the beginning of 2003, followed by tests for state certification. But Mason said the real test was how well they could "mesh" with the department's existing team.

All new firefighters work as semi-privileged probationary members for one year while the chief evaluates their performance, dedication and their interaction with other firefighters, the department and its rules.

Would-be firefighters sometimes arrive with visions of glory, without a good grasp of all the work involved, Mason said.

"They've got to mesh within our group," Mason said. "If things go to hell we want to make sure they're going to follow us. We need about a year to make sure they fit."

Having survived a year being called "rookies," "probies" and other nicknames, the three will take their place among the department's 26 other firefighters.

The award ceremony also was a chance for the department to say goodbye to retiring members Dave Crabtree, Buddy Grinstead and John Whinery, who serves on the board of the Craig Rural Fire Protection District.

Crabtree served 13 years with the department. Grinstead is a 12-year veteran, and Whinery has been a member for 19 years.

Mason gave the Firefighter of the Year award to Second Lt. K.C. Hume. Mason received a nomination letter from a firefighter who spoke of Hume's leadership, his dedication to the department, and a possible future tenure as fire chief.

Hume accepted the award amid a standing ovation.

Mason honored another firefighter he called "the backbone of the department." He awarded Kevin Kernen the Unsung Hero award.

A fire-assist page sent a half-dozen firefighters running from the Christmas party. When they returned, Hume, who left on the call, presented a memorable look back at the year in a computerized slideshow set to music.

Using digital photographs taken throughout the year by Doug Slaight, Hume put together a collection of highlights.

It showed photos of many of the year's fires, along with footage of training exercises, including "high-angle" rope rescues.

The Christmas party featured a prime-rib dinner catered by the fire department's top brass, who donned chef coats with embroidered fire department badges.

Jeremy Browning can be reached at 824-7031 or jbrowning@craigdailypress.com

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