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Posted on: March 27, 2023

IFFD graduates 15 new firefighters

IFFD Recruit Academy Graduation 2023-01

The Idaho Falls Fire Department is proud to introduce 15 new firefighters to the community. The recruits graduated last Friday from a ten week academy – the largest recruit academy ever conducted by the department. 

Surrounded by a room full of family and department personnel, they were officially sworn in as firefighters by Fire Chief Duane Nelson, with loved ones pinning badges on their uniforms.IFFD Recruit Academy Graduation 2023-01

The recruits were trained in-house by IFFD personnel, receiving training in such areas as fire behavior, wildland firefighting, rope rescue, forcible entry, vehicle extrication, and Emergency Medical Services (EMS). The training culminated last week with a live burn where the recruits had the opportunity to experience a real structure fire scenario in a controlled and supervised environment. 


“By conducting the training ourselves, the recruits had the added benefit of early exposure to our staff, equipment, and processes so that as soon as they graduate they can hit the ground running,” explains Deputy Chief Paul Radford. “This academy was a large undertaking, and we thank all of our instructors for the additional time and expertise they invested in our next generation firefighters. We also thank our community partners who donated structures, building supplies, or other items for the academy,” adds Radford. 

The new firefighters have received their shift assignments with some starting immediately after graduation. They will remain probationary firefighters for the next year while receiving additional supervision and mentorship from department leadership and peers. 

In 2022 the department was awarded a SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency to pay for the first three years of wages and benefits at approximately $1 million per year. Ongoing investment in personnel beyond the three years will be paid for by the income stream resulting from the 2022 Senate Bill 1283 that increased Medicaid reimbursements to EMS agencies.  IFFD Recruit Academy Graduation 2023-01

In response to population growth and the resultant housing and commercial development to the south of Sunnyside Road, last fall the City of Idaho Falls purchased a move-in ready fire station from the Bonneville County Fire Protection District. The new IFFD Station 7, located on a 1.2 acre lot at 370 East 65th South, along with the additional firefighters will help address the immediate response needs resulting from rapid growth. The official opening of Station 7 will be announced later this spring. 

The department now has 138 full-time personnel operating out of six stations, including an EMT and paramedic operating out of Swan Valley. Most personnel work 48-hour shifts within three shifts (A, B and C) to provide 24/7/365 all-hazard coverage for the City of Idaho Falls and most of Bonneville County. The department also provides EMS to the City of Idaho Falls, all of Bonneville County, and portions of Jefferson and Bingham Counties.  

All recruits went through the standard Public Safety Testing (PST) process where they took the written exam. The top candidates from the PST moved on to the pass/fail physical agility test. Candidates who passed the physical agility test moved on to the first round of interviews with IFFD staff and union representatives, followed by a final interview with the administrative chiefs.  

Nelson states, “We welcome our new members and their families, and I look forward to getting to know them better in the coming months. Our current personnel have been running a steady increase in calls over the past few years, so getting these gentlemen on shift will relieve some of that pressure. They’ve all done a tremendous job juggling calls and changes that are inherent with growth. I commend them and their continued commitment to this department and our community.”

The 15 new firefighters are:

Dillon Chandler is from Pocatello, Idaho. He worked part time for Chubbuck Fire Department for three years. 

Rowan Gartner is from Kuna, Idaho. He attended school at the College of Western Idaho and worked as a firefighter with Orchard Fire Department. 

Being in a Navy family, Thomas George moved all over while growing up. He decided to plant roots with his family in Idaho Falls. He started his fire service career in Maryland, and moved to Idaho in 2020 for a job with the Idaho National Laboratory Fire Department. 

Blake Gil was born in Victorville, California and moved to Utah and then to Idaho Falls six years ago. He has been married for 11 years and has four children. He previously worked for the Blackfoot Fire Department. 

Sam Hansen says, “I’ve enjoyed the recruit academy and I’m excited to serve this community.”

Myles Harris moved to Idaho Falls from the Boise area. He graduated from Boise State in 2021. Harris states, “I am excited to be in Idaho Falls and look forward to learning more about the area.”

“Becoming a firefighter has been a lifelong goal, and I am honored to be serving with the Idaho Falls Fire Department,” said Donovan Hendrix.

Kaleb Johnson is from Ucon, Idaho where his fire experience began as a volunteer with the Ucon Fire Department. He was a wildland firefighter with the Bureau of Land Management and spent time working with the Madison Fire Department.  

Sterling Kirkham is from Blackfoot, Idaho. He previously worked as a firefighter/EMT at the Blackfoot Fire Department.

Ricky Kuciemba is originally from Mission Viejo, California. He moved to Pocatello, Idaho to attend Idaho State University and worked as a pay-call firefighter for the Chubbuck Fire Department. 

Coltin Marshall was born and raised in Idaho Falls, Idaho. He enjoys the outdoors and goes hunting and camping with his family. Coltin was a firefighter/paramedic for two years with a local agency before joining IFFD. 

Paul Messick grew up in the Shelley/Firth area. He volunteered with Clark County Fire and EMS for the last four years. 

Ronni Naggar moved to this area from the Oregon coast. He has prior experience as a volunteer with two different departments. He is excited to be serving the citizens of Idaho Falls. 

Cody Smith grew up in Idaho Falls. For the last six years, prior to being hired at the IFFD, he has been studying Physiology and Developmental Biology and working as an Advanced EMT in Utah. 

Ryan Taggart is originally from Idaho Falls. He came from the Park City Fire District in Utah where he worked as a paramedic for three years. 

Media Contact: Kerry Hammon, Public Information Officer, (208) 612-8122, [email protected]

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