There’s a new class of dedicated civil servants willing to put it all on the line, and Wilmore should be proud of its newest set of potential volunteer firefighters, city fire chief Jimmy Powers said.
Currently, there are eight men and one woman going through the rigorous fire training regimen being spearheaded by the Wilmore Fire Department and led by Powers, assistant chief Jeremy Wheatley and Lt. Wiley Adams with some guest help from Lexington’s Rescue Unit No. 1 Capt. Chris Fontz.
“It’s the biggest class we’ve ever had by far,” Powers said, “and they have the potential to be the best we’ve ever had — that’s up to them.
“I’m very proud of all of them and will see them through to the end.”
The determined group is made up of mostly younger members of the community between 18 and 30 years old but with a few seasoned citizens who have also taken up the fireman’s cadence.
“You’re never too old to be an asset to your community,” volunteer fireman recruit George Woki, 37, said. “I would encourage anyone with the will to do this.”
Originally from Kenya, Woki is currently a student at Asbury Theological Seminary working on a Ph.D. and said when he first learned of the opportunity to be a volunteer firefighter, he jumped at the chance knowing he would learn the skills to help his neighbors and protect his family.
Recent West Jessamine High School graduate Boyd Doerting, 18, also signed up for the volunteer program for the same reasons but said he plans to take it further and make it a lifelong career.
“A lot of guys have gone through this on to full-time positions,” Doerting said, “And I want to be one of those that do, maybe working in Lexington or another big city — it’s important work, and (this) training will get me there.”
Woki and Doerting are about halfway through the training and remarked that the weekly regimen is very mentally and physically challenging but that it has taught them life lessons to implement daily as well as when they go on a call.
“I’ve learned a lot about responsibility, how to follow direction and how to be a part of a team,” Doerting said. “That trust is the most important thing.”
Woki agreed that the building of his confidence as a person came from trust in someone else and that learning to work together as a unit has inspired him to be a better firefighter. The firefighting training has also turned them into friends.
“Without teamwork and trust, you have nothing,” assistant chief Wheatley said. “Sometimes you’re in a smoke-filled room and you can’t see anything — you’re blind. That’s when you have to trust in the guy in front of you and behind you.”
It’s not just the guys who are touting all the weight for the Wilmore department.
Melissa Middleton, 21, may soon be the Wilmore Fire Department’s second female volunteer, and like her fellow recruit Doerting, she plans to make fighting fire a lifestyle.
“I was inspired by my grandfather; I want to make him proud,” Middleton said. “At first, I feared my size would be an issue, but it’s not and I’m determined to carry this out.”
So far, the nine recruits, who have been carved down from over 20 applicants just a few months ago, are on the path to becoming a part of Wilmore’s finest firefighting crew, chief Powers said.
“Out of this class will be something the city can be proud of,” he said.