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New training captain, paramedics on board the East Fork Fire district

Merrie Leininger

A new training captain and three new paramedics were officially accepted into the East Fork Fire and Paramedics districts Friday at a badge-pinning ceremony, although, as in many aspects of their lives, some firefighters had to leave the ceremony on a wildfire call.

The department’s own week-long training academy had just concluded, said EMT Tracy Connelly, who organized the ceremony and the academy along with paramedics Troy Valenzuela and Jeff Costa.

EMT Capt. Robert Lekumberry welcomed family and friends who filled the garage at the paramedic station on County Road.

“I was thinking on my way over what a special day it is for our new hires. You are now a part of our family and everywhere you go, you will be recognized as a part of our family. We’re excited about that because we do eat, sleep and live together, and we are like a family,” he said.

Ross Rytting was welcomed as a training captain, filling a spot vacated by Tod Carlini when he became a deputy chief in December.

Deputy Chief Dave Drew said Rytting had considerable experience, working with the Truckee Fire Department for 16 years and Washoe Search and Rescue for 16 years. Rytting’s wife Katie pinned his badge on his uniform.

Next came an East Fork veteran, paramedic captain Bobby Wartgow, who was named deputy chief of emergency medical services just that week.

“If I had to introduce Bobby with all the wonderful things he’s done for East Fork, we’d be here for quite a while. His reputation is almost unquestionable,” said Carlini.

Wartgow presented the new paramedics with their badges.

“The race is about to begin,” Wartgow said to them. “Challenge in the tough calls, relish in the good ones and endure everything in between.”

Brandon Brady, EMT-intermediate, Brian Nelson, paramedic, and Greg Womble, paramedic, were presented their badges.

Valenzuela read a touching tribute to the sometimes heart-wrenching work paramedics do by an anonymous writer.

County Manager Don Holler and County Commissioner Kelly Kite also gave a few words of encouragement to the new paramedics.

“You are some of the best ambassadors we have in our community,” Holler said. He said he was encouraged by the recent changes in the department. “We will be one of the best, if not the best, in the years to come. We have the opportunity to be a knock above.”

The ceremony was followed by a slide show and a barbecue.