New firefighters join SCUF ranks

Robert Galbreath photo Thirteen members of SCUF’s Recruit Academy No. 9 formally joined the agency as certified firefighters or cadet program graduates on June 19. Pictured, from left, are Jadon Petty (cadet), Clayton Melinkovich, Mike Orton, Sam Mosle, Jeff Brost, James Jean, Sean Ruckman, Collin Edwards (cadet), Martha Rodriguez, Adrian Kowalski, Brent Faler, Harrison Carter and Sariah Jackson.

DANIEL – Eleven Sublette County residents made the transition from ordinary citizens to certified firefighters and members of the Sublette County Unified Fire (SCUF) family upon graduation from SCUF’s Recruit Academy No. 9 on Monday, June 19.

Each new firefighter received their SCUF badge in the ceremony at the Daniel Fire Station, pinned onto freshly pressed uniforms by family or friends, before taking the oath of office.

Graduates joining the Pinedale Battalion include Jeff Brost, James Jean, Sam Mosle, Martha Rodriguez and Sean Ruckman. Sariah Jackson is joining the Big Piney Battalion. Those sworn into the Boulder Battalion consist of Brent Faler and Adrian Kowalski. Harrison Carter, Clayton Melinkovich and Mike Orton are the newest firefighters in the Kendall Valley Battalion.

Two cadets – Big Piney’s Jadon Petty and Collin Edwards of Pinedale – fulfilled all required coursework except for live fire training, a component they will complete when they turn 18.

SCUF Deputy Fire Chief Bob Kladianos presided over the commencement exercises. Board of Sublette County Commissioner Chairman Sam White opened the ceremony.

Fire Warden Shad Cooper was in Cheyenne meeting with Gov. Mark Gordon, “fighting for (SCUF) at the state level,” said White, and the fire chief regretted not being able to attend the 2023 graduation.

White thanked the firefighters for “standing up” to become “heroes” sworn to serve their neighbors in times of crisis.

“Be proud of the fact that when other people hesitate, you guys are going to go,” White said. “You’re going to put things aside, put your family and personal lives on hold, and step up to help people.”

Kladianos gave a shoutout to the graduates’ families for providing moral support and making the sacrifices to ensure each recruit successfully completed their coursework. Kladianos then expressed gratitude to the newly minted firefighters for the blood, sweat and tears they put into the program.

“Recruit Academy No. 9, you made it,” Kladianos said. “I saw a lot of great things from you – your drive, willingness to study and the way you’ve banded together to support each other. This is a great group and you guys will do great things.”

Successful firefighters embody the traits of dedication, sacrifice and commitment, Kladianos continued.

“Firefighters are respected,” he said. “Kids like you, cops want to be you. Everybody knows you now. Act with integrity and act with courage and think about the things you do.”

Kladianos made an appeal to the newest members of SCUF to treat others with kindness and emphasize self care and the importance of asking for help rather than striving to act “macho.”

Intensive training regimen

The recruit academy is a rigorous, 6-month program involving hundreds of hours of training, said Cass Urbigkit, SCUF county training officer. The coursework meets national standards established by the National Fire Protection Association and the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, he added.

Recruits earn the same certification to battle structure fires and wildland blazes that their peers in municipal and federal agencies receive, Urbigkit noted.

Each future firefighter participates in approximately 130 hours of in-person course work in addition to hands-on training at SCUF’s facility in Big Piney, Urbigkit remarked. The hands-on training typically lasts between 10 and 12 hours a day, he continued.

Coursework begins with classroom basics followed by the “fun stuff” – learning to operate equipment and experiencing “what it is like to be in a burning building,” said Urbigkit.

Urbigkit described the recruit academy as a journey that does not end at graduation. Serving as a firefighter involves a lifetime of training, he said.

Urbigkit formally transferred the recruits from his command as county training officer to their new battalion chiefs.

“You’re no longer a civilian with a spark of interest who signed a recruiting roster looking for a little more information about the fire department,” Urbigkit said. “You’re a fully qualified, fully fledged firefighter now. Your friends, family and neighbors are going to look to you in difficult times, and sometimes, the worst day of their lives. That’s not something to take lightly. They will look to you to serve them on their worst day, and you have each proven that you can answer the call.”