Ten employees of the Berkeley Fire Department got a little time in the spotlight onstage at the on Thursday afternoon, to receive promotions and recognition for their service.
Throughout the Badge Pinning and Recognition Ceremony, the audience of more than 80 members of the department and their family and friends cheered, laughed at inside jokes and occasionally slipped out the door after radios buzzed in emergency calls.
Honorees got teary-eyed as they expressed gratitude to their children, wives and parents for supporting them in their demanding and sometimes risky careers.
At the podium, newly promoted Fire Captain Brian Evans thanked all the employees' families. "You've witnessed the highs and lows that make us love this profession," he said.
Two public safety dispatchers, Kevin Houston and Tyrone McClain, were honored for extraordinary service during a nighttime incident on June 1. A woman went into cardiac arrest while on the phone with the dispatchers, and hung up her cell phone several times without telling them her address. Fire Chief Debra Pryor, who hosted the ceremony, said Houston called back until the woman told the dispatchers her location.
"It is what and who you don't see who make the biggest difference," said Chief Pryor, crediting the dispatchers' determination with saving the woman's life. "This is a perfect example of members going above and beyond."
Six current fire department employees received promotions and had their new badges pinned on by their family members. Those employees are:
- Adam Cooke, Apparatus Operator
- Ian Zakrzewski, Paramedic Supervisor I
- Kevin White, Fire Lieutenant
- Nate Girard, Fire Lieutenant
- Brian Evans, Fire Captain
- Avery Webb, Battalion Chief
After having his badge pinned on by his daughter Alyssa, new Battalion Chief Avery Webb told the audience that, on the job, he's experienced Loma Prieta and the fire storm of 1991. "Over time, I've learned that the residents of Berkeley are a pretty resilient bunch, and I'm proud to serve them," he said.
Additionally, Jim Thompson, previously a city public works inspector, was made a civilian fire prevention inspector, responsible for inspecting high-rise and high-occupancy buildings. Thompson put himself through night school to earn his new position, Pryor said.
One retiring member of the department, Assistant Fire Chief Chris Pinto, was honored for serving 31 years in Berkeley. "I have a lot of wonderful memories," said Pinto. "There have been the floods, fires, natural disasters... and I will miss the people I've worked with."