MURRIETA – Murrieta Fire and Rescue celebrated the graduation of five new probationary firefighters Aug. 3.
The new recruits are Bradley Aarts of Lake Havasu City Fire Department; Mathew Diiullo of Cal Fire Riverside; Brandon Lackey of Redondo Beach Fire Department; Chris McGovern of Cal Fire Riverside and Patrick Wagoner of Redondo Beach Fire Department.
The five went through a six-week academy that included physical fitness and live fire training. They were administered the oath of office by Murrieta Assistant City Clerk Jennifer Ransom at their graduation ceremony. Also present in the audience were Murrieta Assistant City Manager Ivan Holler, Police Chief Sean Hadden and other police staff, as well as retired fire personnel.
Presentation of colors was performed by a joint Murrieta Fire and Rescue and Murrieta Police Department color guard.
McGovern was selected by the graduation class to be their representative and give a speech during the ceremony.
McGovern said while at first he was apprehensive about coming to a new fire department, he was certain it was the right choice after a family night the department hosted during the six-week training.
“Immediately, I noticed there was a strong sense of family and we were welcomed,” he said. “I really felt like we were wanted.”
Firefighter Rob Godinho, who worked as the academy coordinator, said as a lateral firefighter himself – he left a fire department in the San Diego area to join Murrieta Fire – he understood the sacrifices the new probationary firefighters were making.
“It’s not easy to leave a stable job for the unknown, especially when you’re married with three children like myself,” Godino said. “It’s not easy to leave behind your past promotions, your seniority, to come to a new fire department and start all over again.”
The ongoing fire season made this most recent academy a particularly challenging one, Murrieta Fire Capt. Sean DeGrave said.
“We’re extremely short staffed right now. We’ve had people out on fires for the last six to eight weeks,” DeGrave said. “On day one, we sent out a strike team that took three of our instructors away from the academy.”
Murrieta Fire Chief Scott Ferguson, who spoke at the graduation, said he believes each of the new recruits will bring something to the existing “fire family.”
“We’re not hiring people that are just going to come in and fill a slot and respond to calls,” Ferguson said. “So if you are here, it’s because we know that you have experience and have something unique to offer us and work for us to grow.”