A row of parked fire engines made an impressive sight on a rainy Friday afternoon on Addison Street as, inside the Berkeley Repertory Thrust Theatre, eight Berkeley firefighers were promoted in a badge-pinning ceremony which also served to remind the audience what an honorable group of men and women serve and protect the Berkeley community.
Led by Fire Chief Debra Pryor, the February 18 ceremony saw close friends and family members — wives, children, mothers — proudly pinning new badges onto the lapels of the newly promoted firefighters.
Several of the firefighters being honored spoke of the sacrifices being made by their families, but the camaraderie of the force, and its ability to act as a second family to many of those who serve, was also in evidence.
In his thank-you speech, Brian Harryman, who was elevated to the rank of Fire Captain, joked about how he would probably be remembered as an endangered species — “the only Republican to serve for such a long time in Berkeley”.
But the real jesting was left to Eddie Pennine, newly promoted Paramedic Supervisor, who spoke of the nine times he had sat the paramedic exam. He ended on a serious note, however, remarking that he had learned much from his mentors in the department who, he said, are always looking out for the safety of the community and their colleagues. “When no-one is looking, they do the right thing,” he said.
At the top of the ladder was newly promoted Battalion Chief Bill Kehoe who began his career with the Berkeley Fire Department 25 years ago. Kehoe described how the origins of the Berkeley Fire department can be traced to 1887 when the a single fire wagon operated out of what was then Ocean View.
By 1904, Kehoe said, the city’s population had grown to 15,000 and the City Hall burned down — that was when the unit was recognized as a professional department. Kehoe recalled the city’s most damaging fires — in 1953, 1970, 1989 and 1991 — and mentioned that nine new recruits would be joining the department next week.
During the ceremony, a small group of firefighters left the auditorium responding to a radio call. After the speeches, the eight promoted firefighters were sworn in, and celebratory cake was served.