LOMPOC, Calif. -- Allan Hancock College celebrated the graduation of 21 cadets from its Fire Academy during a commencement ceremony held Thursday morning.
The graduation of Battalion 149 marks the completion of a rigorous evaluation for the cadets, which included more than 600 hours of classroom and skills training.
"Today is a special day," said graduate Kevin Kucinskas. "The men and women who have been in this academy have worked extremely hard since January, so to finally be here today at graduation is just a special moment where we get to celebrate with our friends and family. We're all just very thankful to be here."
Each of the graduates have met and exceeded the state and national certification training standards for Firefighter I Certification.
"Today we are so proud of graduating another Fire Academy, Battalion 149," said Leonard Champion, Fire Academy Coordinator. "We have quite a history at Allan Hancock College, going back to 1972. That's when the program started. The fire service is quite different from back in 1972 to today, but our mission is in the same. It is to provide excellent service to the public, give the fire service great candidates, and the 21 cadets that graduated here today are going to be out there providing that great service to the public."
Today's graduation comes at a time when the firefighting industry is rapidly changing.
Due to a number of factors, devastating wildfires have become much more frequent and intense over the past several years.
"They're entering at very interesting time," said Champion. "Fire service is always changing. The firefighters are very good at adapting and being flexible to those changes, and so again, we have a mission, and that is to meet the needs of the community, and so, we're ready for the next challenges that are coming ou
The Fire Academy graduates are soon to personally face those challenges as they enter the workforce in various agencies throughout California.
Champion was proud to point out 19 of the 21 graduates have already been hired by a firefighting agency, including several local departments.
"They're at the top of their game right now," said Champion. "They've been living and breathing this for 17-and-a-half weeks, so now they're going to take that knowledge, take that training and go apply it with a department and an agency."