EVANSVILLE — For lifelong Vanderburgh County resident Brian Stute, it was his internal drive to save lives that made him want to be a firefighter.
“It’s a passion that most people can’t describe,” he said. “You either have it or you don’t.”
Stute, 28, was one of four new Evansville Fire Department members to take their oaths and receive their badges Tuesday afternoon in a ceremony at the department’s administration building. The other recruits are Brett DeVault, Michael Goldman and Kerry Postlewaite. They were sworn-in by City Clerk Laura Brown..
Stute said it was a big relief and an honor to be at the recruit academy graduation ceremony.
“It feels great … it’s also a blessing finally getting to serve my community,” he said. “It makes me proud.”
Fire Chief Mike Connelly told the men that the ceremony is similar to other significant events in their lives in that despite their best efforts to prepare for the challenge, they couldn’t prepare for every possible scenario.
“There will be surprises along the way, not just on the fire scene either,” he said.
Connelly said when you’re a new firefighter, you don’t have all the answers. So when in doubt, ask questions because he said whatever incidents the men may encounter, there is someone on the department who has faced the same situation.
“There’s a brotherhood that transcends all boundaries,” he said. “Our key to success is that we all have been there. Our passion to serve carries us on despite the difficulties and obstacles.”
The recruits have completed more than 480 hours of Fire, HAZMAT and E.M.T. training in a 12-week program. Recruits have to be at least 21 years old, but no older than 35. All four agreed that the physical training and live burns were their favorite aspects of the training, but admitted the classroom work is also needed and necessary.
“You can’t do one without the other,” Stute said.
For the first time, this recruit class welcomed firefighters from other departments to train with them in an effort to expand training and incorporate smaller departments around Southwestern Indiana that might not have funds for their own training division. So three Boonville firefighters joined them.
Twenty-five-year-old Michael Goldman has enjoyed every aspect of training, which he said has been a “giant learning experience.” Goldman, who is from Evansville, said it felt great to receive his badge.
“It feels like a giant accomplishment and a weight lifted off the shoulders,” he said. “We still have a lot of work to do, but it’s an awesome feeling.”
Goldman wanted to become a firefighter for public service reasons.
“I enjoy helping people and the gratification that comes with that,” he said.
Postlewaite, 35, was always involved in sports and enjoyed the team aspect of it, something that drew him to becoming a firefighter. It wasn’t until he was 33, with 13 years of carpentry and four years serving as a building inspector for the city that he made the decision.
“I started to see a lot of fires and just warmed up to it,” Postlewaite said.
Originally from Owensboro, Ky., Postlewaite moved to the city about nine years ago. According to him, it’s been a “long, hard road” to getting on with the fire department, but it’s a great feeling.
“They start out with 500 or 600 guys the first day of the test, and you look around and you think ‘There’s no way that I’m going to end up on that list,'” he said.
DeVault, 28, a West Side native, said it’s a good feeling to know the hard work during training is starting to pay off.
“I’ve always wanted a career in public service,” he said. “As I researched the different fields in public service, I learned that firefighting was just a perfect fit for me. It’s a hard field to get into, but I’m glad that I stuck with it.”
The recruits will be on probation for a year, which includes their training period. If they pass their evaluations after that year, they are first-class firefighters, said District Chief Dan Grimm.
Also at the ceremony, two new department chaplains were sworn-in by current chaplain John Lefler. Ken Olson and Tony Payne, who both have sons on the fire department, took their oaths as chaplains after the recruits.
Grimm said Lefler has been with the department for more than 20 years and became part of the family. Due to personal reasons, Grimm said Lefler is slowly fading out of his chaplain duties, but that he brought in two civilian pastors with an understanding and love of fire service.
“They give spiritual guidance if a firefighter is having challenges in life — marital, financial or emotional,” Grimm said.