By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen
The Vallejo Times Herald
VALLEJO, Calif. — The Vallejo Fire Department has hired 15 new recruits in the past several months, thanks to a federal grant, and they're all getting physical fitness training for free at Dennis Brinson's Olympic Health Club gym on Tennessee Street.
Battalion Chief Ray Jackson said the department appreciates the help. Brinson says it's the least he can do.
"He did this for the last academy, and there were five in that class," Jackson said. "This is the largest class in a decade."
The 10 new recruits are all trained paramedics who know their jobs are based on a two-year grant, he said. He added that it is hoped that through attrition, funds for these new firefighters will be available even after the grant ends. Officials are also applying for more grants, Jackson said.
With these 15 new recruits, Fire Station No. 25 on Mini Drive, which was closed for budgetary reasons, is expected to reopen by summer, Jackson said.
The recruits are undergoing a 12-week academy, which includes fitness training daily, he said. Several days weekly, that takes the form of running along the waterfront, and three days a week, they spend about an hour at Brinson's gym, the men said.
"He designs a program for each one, trains them and stays in there with what they're doing," Jackson said. "They come already in great shape, and they'll be in even better shape with this training."
Brinson said he understands there's a correlation between physical fitness and staying healthy and avoiding injuries.
"We've had police and firefighters train here during the past 30 years we've been in operation, but this is the first specific program with an academy class," Brinson said. "These men are a real asset to the city of Vallejo. This is my home town. My son and co-manager Matthew, is the sixth generation born in Vallejo, and we have to support our town."
New recruit Steve Thompson of Sacramento, 27, said he's looking forward to working in Vallejo.
"It's a great department, and a great city, with a lot of opportunities, and I want to be part of it," he said.
Fellow recruit Jonathan Alberti, 25, of Oakland, said he appreciates the Vallejo Fire Department's "focus on integrity and family," while Brandon Clay of Concord, 27, said he developed a respect and affinity for Vallejo while working for an ambulance service here.
"I worked for Medic Ambulance for the past couple of years, and I like the way the department operates and wanted to be part of that team," he said.
Calling the quality of the new hires "inspiring," Jackson said they give him "a lot of hope for the future of the department."
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