Firefighters pinned at MFPD ceremony

Murphys Fire District welcomed nine new firefighters and one promotion to battalion chief.

On June 8, Murphys Fire Protection District (MFPD) brought on nine new firefighters and promoted Bill Fullerton to battalion chief at a badge pinning ceremony held on the Murphys Hotel lawn.

Chief Brian Wilkes addressed the crowd welcoming the newest additions as “becoming part of the thin red line.”

The firefighters pinned were Kyle Baize, Gregory Crutcher, Ryan Kovacs, Chase Saul, Bailey Wilkes, Michael Brautovich, Nate Higle, Raymond Rodriguez and Maddie Schwartz.

Many of the new firefighters showed their commitment by juggling high school, sports and attending the Calaveras Fire Academy at night.

Both Schwartz and Crutcher graduated the Calaveras County Fire Academy as top scholars, each scoring 100%.

Some of the firefighters’ names are familiar names in the Mother Lode.

“My grandfather, Warren Wilkes, was fire chief for Ebbetts Pass for many years,” said Wilkes, who is also the son of current Murphys Chief Brian Wilkes.

Though Wilkes said he does not intend to skate by on the family name, he has carved out a niche for himself within the department and the south county fire districts as the communication technician handling a large portion of radio communication, from installing to maintaining communication equipment in emergency vehicles.

Wilkes didn’t stop at communication technician.

“I created a computer automated dispatch for strike team leaders, tracking personnel,” Wilkes said. When a strike team is requested from Calaveras County, the program can locate all south county strike team leaders and help with streamlining the formation of a strike team. “We no longer have to call all the stations to find out who is available. This saves a lot of valuable time.”

Wilkes has been with MFPD for more than a year and intends on continuing his education to obtain a degree in fire science, as well as courses in officer training, yet never loses sight of the goal: saving lives.

“I like being able to help people and our community when they need us,” Wilkes said. “We come in on their worst day and make it better.”

Kovacs also has a fire fighting legacy with his father being the past chief of MFPD and the current chief of Scotts Valley Fire District.

Kovacs intends on continuing his education and to “follow in my father’s footsteps.”

While Chief Steve Kovacs is very proud of his son, he assures the world that “He will make his own shoes to fill as he moves through his career.”

Crutcher is following a family tradition, too.

“I enjoy helping people and I wanted to follow in my mom’s footsteps,” Crutcher said. His mother, Teresa, was a Humbolt County firefighter.

“I am so proud of him,” Teresa Crutcher said. “He’s so amazing to have attended high school and the academy. He has so much dedication.”

While Crutcher was a top performer, he won’t be resting on his laurels as he intends on continuing his fire education and “seeing where this career takes me.”

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