PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Firefighter Academy recently graduated 121 cadets who will help the city restore services at several fire stations.
Families and friends were in attendance on Nov. 13 to support and cheer on Class 196 graduates, who will help restore service to four of five fire engines that were cut between 2008 and 2009 during the city’s budget woes.
The new assignments and restart of operations were made possible by federal and city funding to the fire department, which will receive $16 million over the next three years.
“Everyone of our cadet graduations is a wonderful event. It’s always nice to welcome new members of our firefighter family on board,” said Adam Thiel, the city’s fire commissioner.
“This one had a positive twist to it in that these folks would allow us restore this really important capability and really help us to improve service all across the city. This was a win-win situation,” he added.
“All of the folks who graduated in addition are emergence medical technicians,” Thiel said about the training received over nine months as the recruits earned entry into a job that pays more than $54,000 a year.
Daynese Stowe, who joins the force of about 2,700 employees, shared her graduation day with family as she achieved her long journey into the firefighting ranks.
Daynese made history, as she and her father Jeffery, are the first African-American father and daughter to actively serve as firefighters at the same time in the history of the Philadelphia Fire Department.
Stowe was set to graduate in 2016 but failed the National Emergency Medical Services test, a late-minute requirement added to the program.
So when she walked onto stage to receive her certificate, she proudly shook Thiel’s hand as other deputies congratulated the line of graduates.
“I was really nervous because I never experienced this type of graduation before. I was anxious to step over to the other side,” Stowe said. “I was feeling overwhelmed and I tried to maintain my discipline and when I shook the commissioner’s hand he said, ‘It’s OK to smile.’ “
The sigh of relief didn’t stop there but continued with advice from Capt. Lisa Forrest, a 15-year veteran of the department who further relieve the nervousness.
“When she shook my hand, she told me that it’s OK. I can let it go. It made me cry the ugly cry,” Stowe recalled. “They felt my emotions. They felt like a hand shake wasn’t good enough.”
Stowe’s first assignment will begin Monday when she returns to her childhood neighborhood to man Engine 44 at 35th Street and Haverford Avenue in West Philadelphia.
As Forrest stood on stage to greet the graduating class, she wanted to give each cadet a personal message about the journey and responsibilities ahead in the city of 1.5 million residents.
“The citizens come first and doing good will come back to you hundredfold. If you put others before yourself, good will come back to you.”