Three Firefighters Ready to Help Community Following Graduation From Academy

24 February 2017
LEFT TO RIGHT: Caden Burch, Russell Geier Smith and Jace Hall graduate the Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority Firefighter Academy on Wednesday February 22nd, 2017 in Prescott Valley, Arizona All Photos by: Torrence Dunham
Russell Geier Smith, Jace Hall and Caden Burch Graduate from Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority Firefighter Academy

PRESCOTT VALLEY- In a room packed with family and friends on Wednesday night, three firefighters achieved a goal they worked toward for years-having their family pin on a badge signifying graduation from the Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority Firefighter Academy.

“Pretty awesome to finally get here,” said Embry Riddle graduate Russell Geier Smith whose sons had the honor of placing their dad’s badge. “Just to have my boys here and my wife here to be able to see this, it’s pretty cool.”

Smith and his classmates Jace Hall and Caden Burch went through a six week training course which pushed the trio to their limit. In the academy, firefighters must go through a morning workout daily, crawl through tight tunnels, experience extreme heat and be ready for more the next day.

“The training was tough, it was hard, but it’s hard for a reason,” said Hall who has spent 16 years in the quad cities. “Mentally it’s supposed to test you so when you’re actually in that position, it’s not new and they make it extra difficult here for us so we are used to it out there in the real world.”

Training officer Dustin Parra was impressed by each men’s character throughout the process.

“What stands out with all of them is their values that they stand for,” Parra said. “We can train people to do a lot of different tasks but we can’t train them to be good people and they are going to bring in really strong values to our department throughout their career.”

When graduation day comes, it is a moment of pride for not only the firefighters and their families, but also everyone who helped train them in the academy.

“As a training officer, it means everything to me,” said Parra whose in his fourth year training and ninth year with the department. “I look at it as a sense of accomplishment, just for ourselves, but really to see them grow and become men when they get out of this academy.”

The graduation also marked a continuance in family tradition as Burch and Smith are carrying on the heritage of public service.

“My dad was the first firefighter in his family and carrying on that tradition, there’s so much tradition in the fire service,…it’s just incredible,” said Burch who has been pursuing his dream job since 2011 and wanted to stay in the tri-city area working for the department. “Having my girlfriend there and my parents, they have been my support network.”

Burch’s dad, Brian Burch, is a fire captain and joined his son’s girlfriend pinning the badge.

“Leading up to this moment, a lot of emotions,” said Brian Burch who became a full-time firefighter in 1998 after being involved in the industry since 1995. “I’m very proud that he has chosen a profession that is so rewarding and fulfilling.”

“It’ll be interesting to actually have someone in the family to share stories with and actually dialogue on issues and things that we face daily protecting the communities,” Brian Burch continued.

Now with badge on chest, the three plan to stay in town and give back to the community.

“My heart is here,” Hall said. “We love this community, we have been to a lot of places around in the country, and there is no other place like this that we found.”

The training academy usually takes place once or twice a year and depends on the current number of firefighters in the department.

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