8 new members join fire department
Latest Fire Academy class includes two women and the son of a 16-year department veteran.
BY VALERIA RUBINO
U/Miami News Service

The instructions were not for Spider-Man tryouts, but part of a practice test for Miami Beach's eight Fire Academy recruits: scale the 47-story Portofino Tower in South Beach while carrying 50 pounds of equipment and return to the ground floor with air to spare in your oxygen tank.

All of the students passed on their first try -- and again on Nov. 7 when it really counted for the final exam.

Exactly one week later, they became Miami Beach Fire Department's newest members.

The recruits, including two women and two with previous firefighting experience, range in age from 20 to 33. They join a 206-member firefighting team.

''This is a great department under a great chief,'' said Mayor David Dermer to the recruits and to about 70 family, friends, city and fire department officials at the one-hour ceremony at City Hall on Friday.

``It is very difficult getting in and, once here, nobody wants to leave.''

The getting-in part includes eight weeks of intensive training, during which the recruits master the basics -- from putting on and taking off firefighting gear to managing live fires and rescuing people.

Recruits had to pass a swimming evaluation, final map and road tests, exams on emergency medicine, equipment utilization, fire evolutions, rules and regulations, said Lt. Ray Morris.

Shaun Anderson, 33, won the Jim Barret Award as outstanding recruit. When he received the prize, his wife Kristine and two daughters, Alexa, 6, and Skyler, 3, screamed and jumped for joy.

''I want to be part of a team,'' Anderson said following the ceremony. ``I want to know I am doing something to support the community.''

Anderson moved to South Florida five years ago with a bachelor's degree in exercise science, and worked as exercise physiologist before deciding to become a firefighter.

One of the proudest members in the audience was Ted Cook II, whose son, Edwin Cook, 23, joins his father in the fire department. As such, they represent the department's only father-son team.

''I am very proud that he is following in my footsteps,'' said Ted Cook, who has been with the department for 16 years.

Edwin Cook had been a firefighter in Fort Lauderdale for a year, but Miami Beach requires all new firefighters to the department to train again.

Morris and Fire Chief Floyd Jordan underscored the demands of the profession and the importance of customer service.

''You will be challenged to provide the highest possible levels of customer services every day. And you will be challenged by changes in technology, equipment, society, work schedule,'' Jordan said. ``You have to be ready to do your best, at 2 p.m. as well as at 2 a.m.''

Since Sept. 11, 2001, another menace -- terrorism -- hangs over the profession, Morris said.

As a result, the recruits are the department's first to receive training in weapons of mass destruction. The training is taking place this week in Anniston, Ala.