GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Public safety in the Coast’s biggest city got a boost on Thursday as the Gulfport Fire Department welcomed new firefighters with a graduation ceremony.
Sixteen men walked into Central Elementary School as recruits and left as firefighters.
Chief Michael Beyerstedt welcomed the class in front of friends and family. One of the recruits, Kevin Smith, is now ready to embrace the challenges ahead.
“It wasn’t ever something that I dreamed of, but I love it, and this is who I am now as a firefighter,” Smith said.
Smith is part of the biggest incoming class for the Gulfport Fire Department since the city’s annexation of North Gulfport 25 years ago. The new firefighters are replacing many department veterans who’ve recently retired.
“We’ve lost 20 to retirement in the last year alone because of those annexation classes are just hitting right now, so we’re excited about having the fresh blood in here,” Beyerstedt said.
Before being sworn in, many of the new recruits put their training to real life use. They were called to an active house fire on Courthouse Road just an hour and a half before the graduation ceremony was scheduled to start. Beyerstedt said the emergency call was an example of why the added number of firefighters are needed.
“We were running short handed this summer, and it’s difficult on people when they have to cover extra shifts, so it will be nice to be back close to full staff here,” Beyerstedt said.
Now training is complete for Kevin Smith, and he’s ready to step in and help where ever needed even in dangerous conditions.
“I’ve been through training to prepare myself for a situation like that,” Smith said. “I wouldn’t be glad to do it because it would be a sad occasion and possible the worst day of some people’s lives, but I’m here for it.”
There is still a need for more firefighter recruits in Gulfport. You can find more information on the requirements and how to apply here.
Here’s a full list of the graduates:
- Tres Acosta
- Nikolas Blenden
- Roy Cuevas
- James Edwards
- Justin Herring
- Trenton Howe
- Tanner Hughes
- Cade Ladner
- Patrick McMahon
- Adam Moore
- Calvin Ravalo
- Mark Rouse
- Kevin Smith
- Zachary Steube
- J. Tramble