Colorado Mountain College graduates 18 new firefighters |

Colorado Mountain College graduates 18 new firefighters

Graduation ceremony includes moment of silence to remember fallen Summit County firefighter

Eighteen Fire Academy students graduated from Colorado Mountain College on Dec. 7 at the Leadville campus. Instructed by firefighter professionals from nine regional fire districts, the graduates are now prepared for regional fire department jobs. Firefighters are, from left, front row, Jesse Gallup, Nick DeLorey, Nathaniel Cope, Zachary Cherry, Jonathan Burnham, Michael Boettcher, Anthony Belmonte and Nolan Anderson; from left, back row, Corbin Wilson, Evan Stewart, Robert Shelley, Kyle Rogness, James Noah, Justin Jacobi, Peter Holmstrom, William Holder, Jaden Hermosillo and Thomas Harmon.
Carrie Click | Colorado Mountain College

A graduation ceremony for 18 newly-minted firefighters was both tragic and triumphant.

The 18 firefighters beginning their careers were celebrated as they finished their first round of training with Colorado Mountain College, and were presented their Fire Academy I certificates during a graduation ceremony on CMC’s Leadville campus.

Amid the congratulations and smiles, Eagle River Fire Protection District Chief Karl Bauer asked for a moment of silence to remember Summit Fire & EMS firefighter Ken Jones, who died fighting a fire at Copper Mountain in the early morning hours of Dec. 7, the same day as the graduation ceremony.

“This morning, there was a tragic death. When we receive horrible news like this, we may question that out of all the professions the world has to offer why we choose this one,” Bauer told the future firefighters. “We’re rousted out of bed to fight fires and we cut wrecked cars from people, risking our own lives.”

Bauer told the new firefighters that serving others was central to firefighter Jones’ life, and he congratulated the graduates for their choice to do the same.

“As firefighters, we want our lives to matter. It’s not about vain celebrity. Our proudest moments are when we save lives. Firefighter Jones lived his life with a central ethic of serving others,” Bauer said.

Certified and prepared

Certification prepares graduates for firefighting careers throughout Colorado. Of the 18 new firefighters, seven are from Eagle County.

Since August, cadets have been taking two college-level courses totaling 12 credit hours: Firefighter I and Hazardous Materials Operations. The academy curriculum includes classes at CMC Leadville and hands-on training at the college’s live burn facility in Eagle County.

Fire Academy instructors are both active and retired firefighters, representing nine fire departments throughout the region — including Eagle River, Summit, Vail, Greater Eagle, Glenwood Springs, Salida, Colorado River, Leadville, and Red, White and Blue in Breckenridge.

Grads of the year

Along with Bauer, other instructors addressing the graduates were Lieutenant Zak Miller of Vail Fire and CMC’s fire science program coordinator, Eagle River Fire Protection District firefighter and instructor Brandon Drury, and Leadville Fire Rescue Chief Dan Dailey.

As part of the ceremony, Chief Dailey awarded Instructor of the Year to Ryan Gregor.

Both Cadet of the Year and Academic Excellence awards went to graduate Zachary Cherry. Jonathan Burnham received the Certificate of Perseverance.

In addition, in his role as CMC fire science coordinator, Vail’s Miller awarded honors for lead instructors: Brandon Drury (2019) and Greg Isaacson (2018, 2017 and 2016).

Colorado Mountain College offers the Fire Academy I certificate program at its campuses in Leadville, Rifle and Edwards.

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