Juneau residents have three additional reasons to feel safe going in to the new year as a trio of new career firefighters joined the ranks of Capital City Fire and Rescue this week.
Travis Mead started duty on Wednesday, Jason Tarver on Thursday and Chad Cameron today as the newest members of Juneau's fire department. All three are former volunteer firefighters who completed a rigorous battery of tests and interviews to earn their positions.
Mead and Tarver will serve as firefighter/EMTs; Cameron, who has additional medical training, is a firefighter/paramedic. All have lived in Juneau for about six years.
The additional positions were funded by the Assembly earlier this year to balance out staffing levels at the various stations around town.
Mead and Tarver grew up near each other in Arizona. Tarver - whose brothers are all firefighters - was the first to come to Juneau. Mead, who had worked with Tarver's brothers in Arizona, soon followed.
"It was raining sideways, but I liked it," he said.
Both eventually became volunteer firefighters in Juneau.
Cameron moved here from northern Idaho to attend the University of Alaska Southeast.
"After I graduated, I never found a reason to leave," he said.
Cameron started serving as a volunteer firefighter with Juneau in 1997.
To advance from volunteer to career firefighters, the three had to complete a written exam, physical ability test, oral interview with fire service personnel, psychological assessment and a final interview with the fire chief.
That process was completed during the fall; the three learned they had passed around Thanksgiving.
Serving as a firefighter in Juneau is challenging given the wide variety of possible rescue scenarios, including water and mountain.
"It has a lot of hands-on diversity," Tarver said.
All three said serving the community tops the reasons why they have chosen firefighting as a career.
"I think what's driving me is to help people out," Cameron said. "I like the community involvement."
"I can't wait to be 20 years on, look back and know that I had an impact on this town," Mead said. "I think it's every kid's fantasy to be a firefighter. I guess this just goes to show I've never grown up."
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.