‘It really is a calling:’ Fire department candidates up to the task

Fire department candidates up to the task
Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 6:24 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A fresh cohort of future Anchorage firefighters are beginning their Fire Academy experience.

The Anchorage Fire Academy, which began earlier this month, could add as many as 22 new firefighters to the Anchorage Fire Department. This year’s class comes from all different backgrounds, from those brand new to the fire station to trainees that come from a family of firefighters. The class was handpicked from a list of over 300 applicants.

Lead instructor Patrick Barnes says that the Academy experience is a “grind,” with long hours and hands-on instruction every day.

“It really is a calling,” Barnes said, entering his tenth year of involvement with the Academy and third year in charge. Overseeing the next generation is rewarding, he said, because he gets to see the candidates’ progression from day one to graduation.

“We truly are a family, " Barnes stated. “We institute that on day one.”

Riley Stewman is one of the members of the 22-member class slated to graduate in April 2023. Stewman says his father, a firefighter on the North Slope, inspired him to serve his own community as a firefighter.

“(I hope to) give back in a way, and also work with a team of people who come from all professions, and you can learn so much from,” Stewman said.

Fellow candidate Mo Lundin also comes from a firefighting family. Her father is the Deputy Chief of the Palmer Fire Department.

“I practically grew up in a fire station,” Lundin said.

Whether candidates come from families in the fire service or not, Barnes said every one of them must possess a strong determination.

“It’s a rigorous and long process, but the juice is worth the squeeze on the other side,” Barnes said.