NAUGATUCK — Three firefighters who fell in love with the profession at a young age have attained their dream of working in a career fire department.
Michael Ames, 39, Patrick Richards, 24, and Kaity Judson, 24, are the three latest hires in the Naugatuck Fire Department. After testing among the highest of more than 500 people who took the firefighter test in the summer of 2013, they got the call they dreamed of from Fire Chief Ken Hanks a year-and-a-half later.
“We’re looking for people who want to be firefighters, want to serve a community and have a good work ethic … and that’s what these candidates possess,” he said.
The firefighters joined the department on Monday and will begin at the fire training academy next week. They are expected to graduate at the end of May and start work here immediately. The new hires bring the department up to 31 firefighters — they have four shifts and need eight firefighters per shift, Hanks said.
Judson, who is from Montgomery, N.Y., will become the first female line firefighter in Naugatuck history — Ellen Murray was the first female firefighter hired by Naugatuck as deputy chief, an administrative position, three years ago. The NFD has also had female dispatchers and office workers.
“We’re looking for the most qualified people, regardless of gender, race, etc., and the bottom line is, ‘Can you do the job?’ Hanks said.
Judson has proved she can.
After her family home caught fire when she was young, she grew an admiration for volunteer firefighters who saved much of the house, she said. She later joined the volunteers in her town and served as an emergency medical technician for five years.
“When they saved my house, I decided I wanted to give back to the community,” she said.
She went on to work as a firefighter at an industrial complex.
Michael Ames, 39, of Waterbury, said it was his boyhood dream to become a firefighter — family members are firefighters, including his uncle, Oxford Fire Chief Scott Pelletier, who is also the town’s fire marshal. Ames worked as a personal fitness trainer for several years and after working as a volunteer in Beacon Falls for two years, he decided he wanted to fight fires full time.
Patrick Richards, 24, of Portland, Conn., has volunteered in that town for the past six years. He has bachelor’s degrees in fire administration and arson investigation from the University of New Haven.
“I saw my father get his gear on to go to a fire, and I wanted to do that, too,” he said.