210 firefighters join the ranks of the Bravest

SI Advance - December 31, 2005

16 of the new probies who graduated from the Fire Academy will be assigned to Staten Island

All Andrew Sheirer could do to help his father, former Office of Emergency Management commissioner Richard Sheirer, as he made the trek to Ground Zero immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks was "grab him a cup of water."

Now the 23-year-old Dongan Hills resident will be able to do more.

The younger Sheirer yesterday followed in his father's FDNY footsteps, becoming one of 210 probationary firefighters to graduate from the Fire Academy after completing 13 grueling weeks of training on Randall's Island.

"The tradition continues," said a beaming Richard Sheirer of Dongan Hills, who spent 28 years in the Fire Department and four years as an NYPD chief of staff before being appointed director of OEM in 2000. He is now a consultant at Giuliani Partners in Manhattan.

Staten Island will get 16 of the new "probies," said Borough Fire Chief Thomas Haring. Eight will be assigned to Battalion 23 in Great Kills, seven will go to Battalion 21 in Rosebank and one is headed to West Brighton's Battalion 22.

"It feels great, sir," said graduate Jared Tardell, 28, of Arden Heights, who needn't travel far when he reports as assigned to Engine Co. 164 in Huguenot.

"They gave us the basic foundation," Tardell said of his instructors, noting that the toughest part of training was "a lot of running ... lots of pushups. And when we go out into the field, we're looking at all the senior men for guidance."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg presided over a graduation ceremony for a second straight day -- on Thursday, he addressed 1,735 Police Academy graduates welcomed into the NYPD ranks at a ceremony in Madison Square Garden.

Speaking alongside Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta and FDNY Chief Peter Hayden in Brooklyn College's Whitman Hall auditorium, Bloomberg yesterday pointed out that during 2005, the FDNY recorded the lowest number of fire deaths since 1919. And with one day remaining, the Fire Department is on track to document the lowest four-year average of civilian fire deaths "since the Fire Department began keeping records in 1916," the mayor said.

The comment mirrored one at Thursday's NYPD graduation, in which it was announced that the number of crimes reported over the last four years was the lowest since early in the 20th century.

A common 9/11 thread also linked the two ceremonies.

Probationary Firefighter Christian Minara yesterday remembered his father, Firefighter Robert Minara of Ladder Co. 25, who died on Sept. 11, 2001.

"It did influence me somewhat," Minara said. "I'm not going to say that it's always been a dream of mine to become a firefighter -- it was only in the past five or six years that I wanted to do it."

The valedictorian at Thursday's NYPD graduation was Officer Charles Mills Jr.; his father, a retired police chief who was director of enforcement for the state Petroleum, Alcohol and Tobacco Bureau, was lost in the World Trade Center attacks.

LIGHTHEARTED MOMENT

The graduates drew chuckles from the capacity audience, simultaneously removing their hats during the invocation by FDNY Chaplain Rev. Chris Keenan displaying their shaved heads. The haircuts were mandatory for the male probies; two of the three women in the class shaved their heads, and the other's locks were cut short.

"I look like a Q-Tip," Andrew Sheirer said. "I got shaved every week."

The haircuts were nothing compared to the rigorous training, however: There were courses in basic engine and truck operations, and probies learned how to suppress and contain fires as well as how to handle hazardous materials. Terrorism awareness also was addressed.

"Stay low" was the best advice Andrew Sheirer will take with him to his first assignment, Ladder Co. 148 in Brooklyn.

"He came home tired every day," said Richard Sheirer. "That tells me that he did a good job."

For Probationary Firefighter Christopher Stout, 22, of Great Kills, the toughest part of the training wasn't the physical requirements. "[The instructors] led us with the best direction they could," said Stout, a 2001 graduate of Monsignor Farrell High School who is headed to Ladder Co. 175 in East New York.

"The hardest part of training is right now, seeing all of my friends go off," he said.