By Angela Deines
Topeka Capital Journal – March 23, 2017
Seven graduates of the Topeka Fire Department’s cadet program were recognized Wednesday during a ceremony at the downtown Ramada Hotel and Convention Center.
Matthew Conner, Brandon Wenger, Macon Ezell, Matthew Gromer, John Bills, Chase Labrador and Joshua Osborn were officially hired in January after a rigorous 10-week training program.
Osborn, a 2002 graduate of Highland Park High School, said he had been a volunteer with the Shawnee Heights Fire Department for the past year. But after a career in retail, he said, he was ready to take the leap and become a full-time firefighter with more opportunities.
“It’s going to be very fulfilling, just being able to go out and help and make a difference,” Osborn said.
With four daughters ranging in age from 1 to 7 years old, Ashley Osborn said she and her husband are excited for his future.
“What an amazing choice that was and how much more special our lives are going to be because of this,” she said. “Making that choice to leave retail after all those years — oh man. It’s so much better, so much better.”
Newly appointed Topeka Fire Chief Craig Duke said the Osborns’ decision wasn’t made lightly.
“They’re obviously in this together as a husband and wife and a family,” he said. “It takes a lot for someone to do this, it really does, to step up like this. A lot of people say they don’t understand why, when people are running out of a building, they’re running in. It takes a special person to do that.”
Capt. Kevin Flory, division chief of training for the Topeka Fire Department, said the firefighters’ training now takes longer because they have to know much more than firefighters did 20 or 30 years ago.
“Medical skills are a prime example,” Flory said. “The state expanded the scope that an EMT can operate under a couple of years ago, and that added almost 20 different skills that we never had before. Now we have to test their skill set and make sure they’re proficient at it.”
Also on Wednesday, fire investigators James Vollintine Jr., Zachary Bottenberg and Bradley Hanika earned certificates of appreciation and merit for investigating arson fires during the spring and summer of 2016.
Several firefighters also earned certificates of appreciation and merit for their work at a fire December 2 at 3631 N.W. Button Road near the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plant, where one person died and several others were injured. Topeka firefighters were asked to assist the Soldier Township Fire Department in battling the blaze. Those recognized were Capt. Blake Redd, Lt. Michael Stapleton, apparatus operators Brian Christiansen and John Culbertson and firefighters Ryan Ratcliff and Brandon Bauer.
Receiving the Medal of Meritorious Service were Capt. Rex Orton, Capt. David Owen, Capt. Brian Foster, Lt. Jeffrey Studebaker, Lt. Eric Kolean and apparatus operators Joshua Mayer and Daniel McCollum. Unit citations were awarded to Capt. James Seichepine, Lt. Ty Forshee and apparatus operator Anthony Garcia.