FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- After eight weeks of intense training, including facing off with flames and rescue drills, 19 new firefighters are joining the ranks of the Fresno Fire Department.
As family and loved ones watched, Mayor Jerry Dyer told the newest additions to the department, "You may never know the lives you save, the lives you change, the families you touch. Thank you for your dedication and service."
For Bailey O'Dell, serving the city of Fresno is now a family tradition; her father serves with the Fresno Police Department.
She says, "I'm ready to get going, ready to learn, this is only the beginning."
The Buchanan High grad played softball at the University of Illinois before coming home to serve her community.
"This is my home. You go away, but it's Fresno, it's home," she said.
O'Dell is one of three females in this graduating class -- in a traditionally male dominated profession.
She wants young women considering a career in firefighting to know "don't think just because you're female, that you cant do it. Just know that you can do it."
Fresno Fire Chief Kerri Donis says, "As a female and a leader of the fire department, having the opportunity to bring more women into the fold is so critical."
Fresno is committed to growing the department.
By 2022, city leaders say they will have added a total of 42 firefighters and filled vacancies.
That would add more personnel this year than any other year in department history.
The daily staffing will grow from 81 to 95 firefighters serving the city of Fresno.
"We get there faster, quicker, we can effect change much more quickly and efficiently. It also means improved safety for our firefighters," said Chief Donis.
While daily staffing will still be below the national average, the additional crews will help tackle the more than 120 calls the department responds to on an average day.
Chief Donis adds, "We were really proud of who we selected. We knew they were people of integrity and represented the core values of this fire department."
Graduation may have just happened but they are hitting the ground running. The first group of new firefighters starts work in less than 48 hours.
Nearly 20 new firefighters join Fresno Fire Department