Firefighters receive their badges

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, May 12, 2018
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Recent Grads

RECENT GRADS – Eleven firefighters recently completed the Decatur Fire Academy and received their badges Wednesday. Those taking part in the pinning ceremony were Tanner Terrell, Shane White, Hana Koiner, Shannon Spann, Ashlee Schmitz, Dylan Gann, Rodney Gentry, Joseph Chapman and Zach Acuna. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

As the deadline approached for the Decatur Fire Academy, Ashlee Schmitz wrestled with the decision to apply or not.

SLIDING DOWN – Ashlee Schmitz slides down the fireman’s pole at the Decatur Fire Station during Wednesday’s pinning ceremony. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

“I started in Beford on the citizen’s fire academy and it’s gone from there. I was in EMT class last year, and it was in my mind. I printed out the application, and I let it set on my desk until an hour before the application deadline,” Schmitz said. “I decided to turn it in and go for it. I didn’t know if I could do it at 50 years old.”

Four months and more than 400 training hours later, Schmitz slid down the fireman’s pole Wednesday to receive her badge during a pinning ceremony at the Decatur Fire Station. She was one of the 11 recent graduates of the department’s academy. Schmitz and six others will now join the Decatur department as volunteers. The other four will join Krum’s department.

“It’s an honor,” Schmitz said about the badge. “We’ve been through a lot of work and a lot of book work and classtime studying. I’m proud to be here.

“It was strenuous. I had to have a mindset to sit down, study and focus.”

Schmitz plans to go on to paramedic school in February.

Many of the recent grads will move on to EMT school to get their next certification.

The fire academy started in January and ended the final week of April. During the four months, a variety of subjects are covered, including fire science, mechanical aspects of firefighting, use and maintenance of apparatus and equipment, driving equipment and pump operation. The firefighters learned the principles of wildland, structure and automotive firefighting, along with automotive extrication.

“They also spend time on the policy and procedures and fire operations within the department and how to work as a team,” said Decatur Fire Chief Michael Richardson. “It’s 400 active hours and almost 200 hands-on hours.

“They’ve put in a lot of hours and a lot of hard work.”

Richardson, who has been a firefighter for 42 years, added: “I know they will enjoy it and enjoy it as much as I have … A long career brings many rewards. It’s those rewards you never forget.”

Shane White used the academy to re-enter the profession after a long hiatus spent in the oil business. White was previously a firefighter in Lake Worth and EMT for Medstar.

“I haven’t done it in 17 years. When I found out [Decatur] had an academy, I decided at 49 years old that I’m going to see if I could do it,” White said. “Now, I’ve got back into it and just started EMT school again.”

White said it was well-worth the late nights studying.

Dylan Gann, who has been working in emergency services for more than five years, expressed his gratitude in completing the academy to move closer to becoming a firefighter.

“It’ll be nice to say I’m a certified firefighter by the state of Texas after I take all my tests,” Gann said.

The graduates honored Wednesday were: Zachary Acuna, Joseph Chapman, Dylan Gann, Ashlee Schmitz, Shannon Spann, Tanner Terrell, Shane White, Hana Koiner, Ronnie Gentry, Jason Luna and Jordan Peralez.

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