New firefighters graduate from academy

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - They help serve and protect--31 firefighters took their first steps as new graduates. They are from Roanoke City, Roanoke County and Salem.

Two kids are following in their father's footsteps. Roanoke County Battalion Chief Toby Martin has two children who graduated from the academy. They are part of 23 Blue.

This recruitment class of 54 members was so large that they had to be split into two groups, 23 Red and 23 Blue.

Stephen Simon, Chief of Roanoke County Fire Rescue, said, "We had a lot of people retiring, a lot of our firefighters were reaching that age of retirement, so we had a little bit higher attrition than normal."

Angel Parra, a Roanoke City Graduate, added, "It took a lot to get to know each other and become a brotherhood but we got it done."

Parra won the academic award for maintaining the highest grade point average throughout the academy.

"It's been a long dream of mine to help others, so this was one good way of doing that, and once I got into actually firefighting as a volunteer before, I found this was actually my calling," he said.

A calling Ethan Walton has had since he was a teenager.

"I volunteered with Vinton before I joined the Navy, I went and did my service in the Navy, then I came home and jumped right into this career field," said Walton, a Roanoke County graduate and President of 23 Blue.

But, he's not alone.

"The class was a group of some of the best individuals I've ever met in my life from literally all areas of the county and the world," he said.

After 18 weeks of training with his class, he will now be working in the field with them, serving his community.