By Jacob Klopfenstein
Cortez Fire Protection District academy graduated 10 recruits this weekend – seven from Cortez, two from Ute Mountain Fire Rescue and one from Dolores.
Graduates were honored at a ceremony Saturday at Cortez Church of Christ. The class was named in honor of Jack W. Click, a former Cortez firefighter who worked his way up through the ranks to become fire chief, said assistant fire chief Shawn Bittle.
“The recruits are very honored to have been named after Jack W. Click,” Bittle said. “They are dedicated to living up to his standards and what he has done for the department.”
Click also was assistant chief, and sat on the district board of directors after he retired from firefighting. It’s a new tradition to name academy classes in honor of firefighters and people who made a positive impact on the department, Bittle said.
“That reminds recruits how we got here and helps keep everyone grounded,” he said.
Recruits covered the curriculum for basic to mid-level training for firefighters in Colorado, Bittle said. Instruction topics included fire tactics, arson investigation, water supply, communications and public safety.
The passing grade is 70 percent, and the class had an average score of 83 percent, he said.
“The community should be very proud of their accomplishments,” Bittle said. “They will be great public servants.”
Since the fire department has to run with a regional viewpoint, the department will continue working to recruit people from the entire county, Bittle said.
The department will begin recruiting next year’s class on Oct. 28 as they hold a hiring process for volunteer, part-time and full-time firefighters. Anyone interested can stop by administration offices at 23 N. Washington St. or go to the website, www.cortezfire.com.
This was the first recruiting class Bittle worked with since starting with the department in March. He hopes to continue expanding it.
“I’m hoping that out of the energy and enthusiasm we built with this class, we’ll continue to grow class members,” he said.
The graduates are Aarion Eyetoo (Ute Mountain Ute Fire & Rescue), Shellbee Romine, Kaylib Root (Ute Mountain Ute Fire & Rescue), Gage Krob, Jeffrey Bentsen, Tyler Dykes, Julie Birkle, Sean Ross (Dolores Fire Protection District), Tanner Desrosiers and Landon Sanchez.
The graduation ceremony kicked off what will be a busy month for the Cortez Fire Department.
This week is Fire Prevention Week, and firefighters will visit area elementary schools and preschools to teach kids about stop, drop and roll and other fire prevention methods. Fire crews will be out on the streets in Cortez, passing out information and giving demonstrations.
On Oct. 29, J.Fargo’s will host the Third Annual Tip Your Firefighters fundraiser from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
All tips and 10 percent of food sales will be donated to the Cortez Fire Protection District for public education, and kids who wear a costume get a free mini-ice cream cone.
There will be games and activities in the parking lot, firetruck tours and a free fire helmet. People can register to win a firefighter escort for trick-or-treating on Halloween.
Two families will win a personal escort for trick-or-treating by local firefighters. Winners will be drawn at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29.
From 5 to 7 p.m., first responders will be on hand with trunks open for safe trick-or-treating.