The Grand Junction Fire Department welcomed seven new members to the force Sunday, after they graduated from the Recruit Fire Academy.
Christian Keller says he had been waiting for Sunday for a long time, and that ever since he saw his dad serve as a volunteer firefighter, he knew what he wanted to do with his life.
"The best thing about it is the opportunity to help people," said Keller. "Because many times they're in their darkest hour and you're somebody there."
Keller, as well as Jerome Gardner, Jacob Long, Mark McIntire, Tyler Nathe, Brad Siler, and Derek Sjolund turned those goals into realities. They completed the twelve week fire academy where they were trained in areas like EMS, Hazmat, technical rescue, and firefighting.
"We've tried to put them in the most stressful, most difficult situations we can," said Captain Chris McCoy, an academy instructor.
Recruits say the instructors stayed true to that promise. In addition to heavy training and coursework, they were put through a rigorous fitness program that saw them run 135 miles and do over 6,600 push-ups.
"We were in our bunker gear going up and down the Alpine Bank building, realizing there was a lot more than ten stories to it," said Keller.
"We had some morning PT sessions that were four degrees, completely dark," said McCoy.
But instructors say pushing through the blood, sweat, and tears is exactly what it takes to become a firefighter.
"When the general public calls 911, they expect us to be able to relieve the situation no matter what it is," said McCoy.
The fire department says it's expecting up to six retirements this year, and that it needs new firefighters to keep up with a growing city.
"It increases our staffing which allows us to be more versatile in what we do, the way we respond to calls," said McCoy. "This in turn makes it safer for us and better for the public."
Making things better for the public is exactly what Keller hopes to do as he looks forward to his first day on the job.
"I'm most looking forward to being a normal firefighter and going back to working regular shifts," said Keller.
The fire department says it's expecting about ten recruits in its 2009 academy class. That process will start up again later this fall.