Six firefighters graduate in Huntington
HUNTINGTON — The newest class of Huntington firefighters celebrated their graduation into full-fledged firefighters Friday afternoon at the Tri-State Fire Academy in Huntington.
The six men are Travis Hoke, Kolby Johnson, Andrew Riley, Brandon Samples, Anthony Sapp and Harley Slone.
The graduation ceremony capped off nine weeks of intense training — both in Huntington and at the West Virginia State Fire Academy in Weston — and officially assigned them to their stations scattered across the city.
Huntington Fire Department training officer Capt. Scott Ramey added that while this group began with their share of mistakes and missteps, they finished all their certifications.
“They did outstanding on all their skills,” Ramey said. “Even the guys up there (at the state academy) bragged on them at how well they were trained and how well they performed their job.
“I’m super proud of these guys. I could not have asked for a better class.”
The group is a mix of younger men looking to start their first career as well as an older generation looking for a career change. Sapp, for example, spent 11 years tending bar at The V Club downtown. His story was featured in The Herald-Dispatch in July.
“It’s just amazing that being a firefighter is such an amazing job that these people are thinking, ‘I want to do that instead of what I’m doing now,’” Ramey said.
Johnson is also one of the latter — a 30-year-old Huntington native who had previously been a union electrician with IBEW 317 in Huntington. Johnson joined the department following his cousin, who joined five years earlier.
And though he had been warned the training would be rough, Johnson said it was still a lot harder than he expected.
“I played football both ways, two-a-days, all that stuff. But this is a completely different beast,” he said. “It’s pretty grueling, but you get in shape and it’s what the job consists of. The better shape you are (in), the better firefighter you are.”
Now that they can officially call themselves firefighters, Johnson said he’s excited to get to work in his hometown.
“Being a Huntington boy, there’s nothing better than getting to serve the community you’re born and raised in,” he said.