At auditor's urging, city welcomes aboard 'floaters' to save money in long run
by: Carole Archer, Jeff Hairston and Grant Kimble lead the way for fellow graduates.  Behind them in the second row are Tim Habeck and Andrew Nguyen.

Ten new firefighters have joined the ranks of Gresham Fire and Emergency Services.

Six of the new hires fulfill a recommendation from Gresham's auditor, who last December suggested the city could save more than $1 million over five years by increasing the number of 'floaters' - firefighters who rotate between fire companies and stations while covering temporary absences due to vacations, illness, training, meetings or other kinds of leave.

The remaining four new firefighters fill positions left vacant due to retirements.

All 10 firefighters started the probationary academy on July 6 and graduated as Probationary Firefighter Class 07-01 on Thursday, Sept. 28. It's the city's largest class to graduate since 1999, said Ed Hartin, battalion chief in charge of training.

The ceremony was formal enough to call for the honor guard. However Johnny Cash's 'Ring of Fire' and the fire-themed disco hit provided just the right degree of humor for a training slideshow.

'It has been said that firefighters are in the-worst-day-of-your-life business,' Chief Scott Lewis said. 'That has not changed. Whether it's a fire that destroys a home or the loss of a life-long companion, we see people when they need us the most. We try to bring order to the chaos as we solve problems one call at a time. Today you join a group that is among the best at what they do.'

The new firefighters include:

• Bob Chamberlin, a 16-year fire service veteran who lives south of Hillsboro.

• Tim Habeck, a fan of motorcycles and old cars.

• Jeff Hairston, who was drafted by the Pittsburg Pirates and played professional baseball for six years.

• Grant Kimble, who grew up in Boring and attended Sandy High School.

• Heather Mueller, who has worked at Washington County Fire District 2 and Aurora Fire District 63 and volunteered for the Banks Fire District.

• Andrew Nguyen, who grew up in Gresham and is a 2002 Centennial High School grad as well as a Mt. Hood Community College graduate.

• Greg Renfro, a Sandy High School graduate who earned an applied science degree from Oregon Health and Science University's paramedic education program and volunteered for the Sandy Fire District.

• Brent Stewart, a Clackamas resident who enjoys sports and poker.

• Ken Strang, who traded a firefighting career in Huntington Beach, Calif., for a chance to move with his wife and five children, ages 18 days to 15 years, to the Pacific Northwest.

• Mike Wesener, who moved to the United States from rural Australia in 2004 and interned at Clark County Fire District 11.

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