The Burlington County fire service welcomed 36 new firefighters into its ranks late last month at the county’s fire academy graduation.
The graduation ceremony was held at the Burlington County Institute of Technology in Westampton (BCIT) to mark the end of cadet training. Each graduate attended 59 training sessions that totaled 220 hours.
County Commissioner Allison Eckel spoke at the ceremony and congratulated each of the cadets. Joining here were county Public Safety Director Gary Gubbei, Burlington County Emergency Services Training Center Director Howard Black and retired Mount Laurel Fire Chief William Dukes.
”It takes a special person to be willing to step forward and devote your time and energy to serve your neighbors and your community,” Eckel told the cadets. “The men and women we’re celebrating tonight are doing that and more.
“They’re willing to place their own lives at risk in service to others.”
Eckel noted that in June, fire crews were called to battle the state’s largest wildfire in 15 years on the southern border of Burlington and Atlantic counties. The Mullica River wildfire burned more than 13,000 acres of Pinelands forest before it was finally contained.
Eckel also expressed gratitude for the fire-rescue teams, including firefighters from the county, whose efforts protected several buildings in the area.
“We give thanks to the members of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service who worked several days and nights to contain the blaze and protect threatened structures,” she noted.
A total of 18 threatened buildings – including historical ones in Batsto Village – were saved as a result of the fire-rescue teams’ efforts. Eckel emphasized that firefighters have a responsibility that puts their lives at risk every work day.
“We owe all the first responders who worked that wildfire and the others that have sparked this summer a tremendous debt of gratitude,” she said. “These fires remind us of the dangers all first responders face and how every shift or emergency call can put them at risk.”
Eckel cited the graduates for their courage in welcoming those same risks in their careers.
“The men and women graduating today are willing to face those dangers in service to their communities,” she said. “Tonight, we honor their bravery, their perseverance and their strength.
Eckel added that in Burlington County and the state in general, residents rely on volunteers to respond to fires and other emergencies. She noted that 75 percent of all fire departments in the state are still made up entirely of volunteers.
Eckel also expressed gratitude for firefighters’ continued efforts to keep communities safe and commended the graduates on their achievement.
“Fighting fires is a selfless calling, full of risk and sacrifices,” she explained. ”All of us have a responsibility to ensure it is not a thankless one as well.”
“On behalf of our entire (board of commissioners), let me be among the first to congratulate you on your accomplishments and thank you for the services you will perform for Burlington County’s residents.