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Huntington firefighters mark accomplishments

June 30, 2018 GMT

HUNTINGTON — As six young men were sworn into positions as Huntington firefighters, a mentor was promoted and two others were taken off probation more than a year and a half after being laid off.

Fifteen-year veteran firefighter Steven McCormick highlighted the ceremony as he was promoted to lieutenant in front of more than a dozen friends and family members.

McCormick said the ceremony was more for family and friends and his job is more about helping to change the worst day of someone’s life.

“There’s no ordinary day. Every day is a new day. We are constantly dealing with new issues. When people are in chaos, we thrive. That’s why we like it,” he said. “I’ll be honest with you. This type of stuff, the firemen aren’t big on, like all this limelight. We don’t do the job to get recognized.”

Huntington Fire Chief Jan Rader said McCormick has served as an informal leader for years and the promotion made it formal. Rader said through his hard work, his handprint had literally been left on the department for years, starting with his probationary period 15 years ago.

“Steve had a blockage in the room we set up and he would bounce off the wall to get to his gear,” she said. “So by the end of the six weeks they were in training, there were dirty handprints on that wall. We left them on that wall for years.”

As lieutenant, McCormick will be the officer in charge of the truck he has already spent years driving.

Dustin Bumgardner and Scott Ward also received new firefighter helmets, which ceremoniously marks the end of their probation period. Probationary officers wear helmets that are different colors so they can be better identified in an emergency situation.

The two were part of 24 city employees — seven firefighters — laid off in early 2017 after city officials announced they were facing a $5 million deficit.

Rader said the layoffs were rough, but the city had learned from its mistake.

″(They) have been through some rocky roads with the Huntington Fire Department,” she said. “They were part of a group that had been laid off due to financial woes, but they came back and served with pride and dignity.”

Also during Thursday’s ceremony, Andrew Riley, Kolby Johnson, Brandon Samples, Anthony Sapp, Travis Hoke and Harley Slone were sworn in as probationary firefighters and will be in training for the next year before being eligible to become privates.

The new hires bring the department’s staffing level to 94 sworn firefighters. For the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1, the fire department is budgeted for 95 firefighters.

To fill the remaining spot as well as any vacancies from potential upcoming retirements, the fire department is accepting applications through Aug. 10.

Applica nts must be at least 18 years of age. Applications are available in the City Clerk’s Office, located in Room 16 at City Hall, 800 5th Ave., Huntington, WV 25701, or online at http://bit.ly/fireapply.

Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.