Bellevue Fire and Rescue Department swears in four new firefighters
By Heather Graves
BELLEVUE – It was a proud moment for the village’s Fire and Rescue Department – welcoming four new recruits and saying goodbye to a 14-year veteran at a ceremony at the village board meeting Wednesday, Aug. 28.
Surrounded by their fellow firefighters, family and friends, Jose Arce, Christopher Battaglia, Bradley Boeke and Zachary Champine were sworn in by Village Board President Steve Soukup.
During the ceremony, each recruit chose a person special to them to pin on their badge.
Arce chose his girlfriend Devin Vandertie, Battaglia chose fellow firefighter Alex Becker, Boeke chose his wife Amanda and Champine chose his father Al.
The new recruits went through more than 100 hours of training and schooling.
They also completed a 16-week recruit school with the department, on nights and weekends, which Fire Chief Jack Mlnarik said normally followed a full day’s work at their day jobs.
“This is when the journey truly began,” Mlnarik said. “During this time they make a tremendous personal sacrifice being away from their families. These individuals have exemplified what it means to be part of the Bellevue Fire and Rescue Department. They will be an excellent addition to the professional, dedicated and hard-working staff that already exists.”
As part of the ceremony, recruits turned in their generic yellow helmets and received their black firefighter helmets complete with their name, department and badge number.
“Hours and hours of training went into getting these black helmets – that’s a huge honor,” said Captain Andy Aschenbrenner.
The department also used the evening to say goodbye to Steve Duca, a 14-year veteran of the department.
“It’s truly an honor to celebrate this achievement,” Mlnarik said. “Over my time in the fire service, it isn’t often that you see a part-timer make (14) years.”
Mlnarik said many things have to happen to accomplish this.
“Having an understanding family is probably one of the most important things,” he said. “Anytime a pager goes off – a wedding, birthday, holiday, anniversary – any type of milestone could be missed because of the dedication to the fire service. It’s a selfless act over the last 14 years that makes celebrating this time so special.”
Mlnarik said even though Duca is leaving duty, a firefighter never really leaves.
“You may not go on calls anymore, but you’ll still always remain a valuable part of the department,” he said “It’s our hope that Steve will still come around the station and share some of that knowledge that he’s gained over the last 14 years he’s been here.”
Duca was given a plaque honoring his 14 years of service.
“I want to thank the Bellevue Fire Department – you are truly family,” Duca said.
The Bellevue Fire Department is a combination fire and rescue department providing a variety of services to the village on a 24-hour, 365-day basis. On average, the department responds to approximately 1,000 emergency calls per year.