For a community our size, we are fortunate to have a highly trained professional fire department — augmented in our neighboring towns and villages by also highly trained and highly dedicated volunteer fire companies. Both share a commitment to protecting the life and property of their neighbors.
We have been encouraged by several recent stories — from 16-year-old Stephanie Grocholski who has become a fourth-generation firefighter as a new member of the Volunteer Fire Company of Western to the additions of Utica Fire Academy graduates Kathleen Isherwood and Oliver Dragojevic at the Lake Delta Volunteer Fire Department to the swearing in on Tuesday of new Rome Fire Department recruits Jaimie Stasio, 35, the first female firefighter in the 130-year history of the department and Kyle Liddy, 23, who joins his father, Deputy Fire Chief Michael Liddy, in serving the community.
They each bring not just youthful exuberance to the job but also a passion for helping others.
Being a firefighter is not easy, and each of the new candidates had a host of challenges and requirements to meet.
For Grocholski, the Holland Patent High School junior has to add nearly 220 hours of coursework and hands-on training to her already demanding school, work and sports schedule just to earn her firefighting certifications.
Isherwood and Dragojevic too had to balance the costs and demands of attending the fire academy with work, school and other commitments.
Rome Fire Chief Thomas Iacovissi said the road for Liddy and Stasio wasn’t easy, with a variety of tests to pass and a host of other candidates also competing for a position at the department.
Stasio, Iacovissi said, has been working for several years to join the Rome Fire Department.
Potential firefighters have to pass both a civil service test and be among the top scorers, and then they are invited to a physical fitness test put on by the department. Iacovissi said Stasio has been among the top scorers before, but she failed the physical fitness test — which a lot of candidates do on their first try.
However, Stasio didn’t quit or seek a lesser standard. Instead, the chief said, she hired a personal trainer and put in the work so that she could pass the fitness test, comprised of eight challenges that simulate actual firefighting operations. These include climbing 70 feet up the ladder truck at a 70-degree angle, multiple tests of lifting and lowering heavy hoses and ladders, and four round trips up and down three flights of stairs in full gear, twice while holding a rolled 50-pound hose.
We commend Stasio, Liddy, Isherwood, Dragojevic and Grocholski for their dedication, hard work and desire to help others.
“It takes a special person to do something like this, with the commitment,” said Western Fire Chief Michael Anania.
We couldn’t agree more.