Fire Department welcomes nine new members

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published August 3, 2016

 Hartland resident Gregory LaPointe, 30, deploys a tri-fold crosslay during the probationary fire training at the Bloomfield Township Fire Department’s training site.

Hartland resident Gregory LaPointe, 30, deploys a tri-fold crosslay during the probationary fire training at the Bloomfield Township Fire Department’s training site.

Photo provided by the West Bloomfield Fire Department

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — Residents across the greater West Bloomfield area will see nine new friendly faces at the West Bloomfield Fire Department. 

Damon Brown, Michael Starkel, Carly Mocny, Aaron Mann, Kevin Chenet, Gregory LaPointe, Eric Stange, Alex Heber and Jeremy Adkins finished their two-week training course with the department July 22.  

Capt. Mark Lawry said the group was unusually large in number, but a group of nine is easier to train than a group of one or two individuals. Two of the positions are new budget positions, but the other seven are considered backfill positions.

The two weeks of training consisted of everything from mapping to pump operations to public education. Lawry explained that the public education aspect of the job is important because crew members need to be able to answer every question asked.

“These guys need to be able to answer any person who stops them on the street. … We don’t have the point-to-somebody-else thing. There’s no 912. These guys are 911. When a call happens, they solve it,” he said. 

Mocny, of Roseville, said she became a firefighter because, in addition to helping people, the Fire Department offers something that most careers don’t — a family atmosphere. 

“We get along and we spend a lot of time with each other,” Mocny, 26, said. 

Previously, Mocny was working at a public safety department that combined police, fire and emergency medical services. 

“I’m not a cop, obviously, so for me this is more concentrated in the fire service, and you focus more on training and Fire Department activities rather than the juggle of the three,” she said.

Over the years, the number of qualified applicants has declined, according to Fire Chief Greg Flynn. Twenty years ago, he said, departments would receive hundreds, even as many as 1,000 applications for two or three positions.

“We had 40 applicants. I couldn’t be more thrilled with the nine that took the jobs. They come from very diverse backgrounds — some from private ambulance, some from municipal departments. Some have hospital-based experience. Some come from very high-volume systems like Detroit EMS, so I’m thrilled that West Bloomfield is attracting that kind of talent. That’s what we want here. We want the best so we can provide the best service to our residents,” Flynn said. 

Flynn said that the desire for public safety jobs — emergency medical service, police and fire — has decreased. 

“Things that impact the desire are shift work, atypical work schedules, working holidays and weekends, pension changes, and finally, wages,” he said. While Flynn feels the West Bloomfield Fire Department’s wages are competitive, the other factors can “tip a future firefighter into a health care or computer programming career.”

The ages of the new crew members range from 22 to 31 years. 

Starkel, of Grand Blanc, is the youngest in the group at age 22. When asked why someone should consider choosing fire service as a career, he said, “If you want something new every day, something exciting … (and) if you want to help people but you also want the adrenaline rush … this would be a great career for anybody.” 

Though qualifications for being a firefighter/paramedic include having taken Fire 1 and Fire 2 classes at the fire academy and being a state-licensed paramedic, Starkel said the education aspect never stops. 

“You never know everything. There’s lots of room for progression,” he said.

The consensus of the nine new hires is that the West Bloomfield Fire Department not only provides stability, but top-of-the-line equipment.

In their initial two weeks, Flynn said, training staff focused on service. 

“That’s what we do — we provide service. Whether it’s service because there’s some kind of hazardous condition inside your home … or a medical problem, or your infant has gotten their arm or head stuck between the spindles on the stairway, that’s what we’re here for. 

“When you don’t know what to do, you call WBFD, and we’re there. And we will help you problem solve or get the right tools to the scene to fix whatever it is,” Flynn said.

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