Fort Worth firefighters have family ties to department
FORT WORTH -- Firefighting is in their blood.
Of the 32 men who joined the Fort Worth Fire Department on Friday, 10 have family members who are serving or who have retired from the department.
"He's seen me get up and go to work every third day for 35 years. He knew I loved it," said Engineer William Pennington, a recent retiree of the department whose son, Chase Pennington, graduated Friday.
"I've got another one I hope will some day get on."
Four other graduates -- Scott Allen, Chad Self, Justin Wallace and Philip Hartley -- have family ties to other departments in the state.
Fire Chief Rudy Jackson said the large number of legacy recruits came as no surprise to him.
"It's an honorable profession," Jackson said. "They get to see their family members on a daily basis and the pleasure and joy that they bring with them and the stories that they talk about when they come home so you can't help but get excited about it when you hear what we do."
All applicants go through the same hiring process, including an entrance exam, physical ability testing, an extensive background check, a polygraph exam and interview. A list of eligible candidates is then sent to the fire chief for final approval.
Fire officials say legacy recruits are given no preference in hiring.
"Our hiring process has evolved over the years," Deputy Chief David Coble said. "I will vouch that the current format is designed to give all applicants a level playing field."
Of the 10 recruits with ties to the department, some, like former graphic designer Caleb Crow, dabbled in other careers but found themselves pulled back into the profession and department of their parents, siblings or cousins.
"I've always believed in having a job with purpose, having a job that had the ability to help others," said Crow, the son of an Arlington firefighter and brother of a Dallas firefighter, whose Fort Worth department relatives have included two uncles, an aunt and a cousin.
"With graphic design, you do a lot of interesting things, meet a lot of interesting people. But with this, I have the ability to help out more, to reach out more," Crow said. "It doesn't feel like it is a job. It's something bigger than myself. For me, it's fulfilling."
Capt. Kelly Gutierrez beamed with pride Friday for his son, Chris Gutierrez.
"He really didn't have a real big interest in it growing up. He was more of a baseball player," Kelly Gutierrez said. "He just kind of came out one day and said, 'Dad, I think I want to be a fireman.' ... I'm really proud of him, happy for him. He started pursuing his career and here we are today."
For others, firefighting has been their lifelong dream.
"I kind of grew up on it," said William Scott, 19, whose father is a Fort Worth fire lieutenant. "It's kind of the lifestyle that I know and enjoy."
Bruce Scott said that when his son told him about his plans last year to try to join the department, "I thought it was a little early but that's what he wanted to do so I supported it."
Still, he couldn't help but get a little emotional when asked whether he had reservations about his son following in his footsteps.
"When you do what we do, it's very dangerous so when your son chooses to do it, it kind of changes your perspective a little bit," he said.
Deanna Boyd, (817) 390-7655