By Jessica A. York
The Vallejo Times Herald
VALLEJO, Calif. — Unlike the sisters of many people who graduate this time of year, Kristin Alberti watched with rapt attention Friday as her brother vaulted into a smoky room to rescue a "baby" before he received his diploma.
Jonathan Alberti was followed to the left, right, above and behind by his nine fellow firefighter graduates.
The rescued baby was a doll, and the smoke manufactured. What was real, however, was that not only was this graduating class of firefighter apprentices the city's largest since 1998, it also will help the city reopen a closed fire station in North Vallejo for at least the next two years. The station reopening will be the first to come without an offsetting closure since the city first began shuttering fire companies in 2008 due to spending cutbacks.
The new graduates' day started with several demonstrations at a fire training warehouse on Mare Island, and continued to Vallejo City Hall and a crowd of more than 200 onlookers for an afternoon pinning ceremony.
New firefighter Richard Fischer Jr. described his graduation from Vallejo Fire Department's 14-week academy as "a dream come true." He and his peers officially will begin working for the city around June 26.
Fischer, whose father has spent more than two decades as a firefighter for the Hayward Fire Department, said he also has an uncle and cousin in the fire service.
"I'm the fourth in the family — the tradition goes on," Fischer said of his reasons for pursuing the career. "It's being part of something larger. ... Growing up with the fire service, I've wanted it ever since I could walk and talk."
Dad, Rich Fischer Sr., said he took a "hands-off" approach to his son's future, letting him make his own way.
"He's got a good heart, he's conscientious and hardworking," Fischer said of his son. "Vallejo has a really good reputation. ... He'll be challenged here in Vallejo, with both EMS and fire."
Fischer will be joined by Alberti, Ben Crew, Emmett Lille, Ken Brown, Dan Gutierrez, Steve Thompson, Owen Goodrum, Brandon Clay and Tony Capella.
Vallejo, facing a budget projected to overspend its incoming revenue by more than $3 million next year, will not have to foot the bill for the new hires. The new class' salary and benefits will be paid for through a federal two-year SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response) grant, said Vallejo officials who hope to use the new recruits to fill expected coming retirement vacancies.
"These 10 guys represent the future of the Vallejo Fire Department," Training Battalion Chief Dave Urrutia said at the ceremony.
"Thank you for the vital contributions you're about to make for the citizens of Vallejo."
The promotion of former fire Capt. Ray Jackson to battalion chief and repromotion of Cliff Campbell to captain were also recognized at the ceremony.
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