Merced Fire Department welcomes 26 new graduates


Following a long series of applications, vetting, training, and hard work, 26 new firefighters were welcomed into Merced Fire Department on May 20 during a ceremony inside the Merced Theatre in downtown Merced.

Notably, all 26 of the graduates will be stationed here in Merced, bringing up the average crew of each engine from 4 to 5, with numerous backups available.

Before taking to the stage, all of the soon-to-be graduates in full uniform made their way on foot to the historic Main Street landmark as they were led by superiors riding in a big red fire engine. The procession was also joined by a band of fellow firefighters playing drums and bagpipes.

To kick things off, Battalion Chief Jeremy Franklin, who has 24 years with the Merced Fire Department, was recognized as 2024 Firefighter of the Year.

“Chief Franklin was nominated by his peers for his achievements,” said Casey Wilson, the interim fire chief. “The criteria for selection is based on efforts to provide better service, improve public relations with the community and exemplary efforts made to improve the working conditions of MFD members. … In addition to leading his shift for many years and managing some of the city’s largest fires in recent history, he has been charged with managing our apparatus program, leading our safety committee, and leading many other special projects. He has specialized training in hazardous materials and is a certified Chief Officer with California State Fire Training. Chief Franklin has a passion for training and has made great strides for the MFD to improve the training and operations for our personnel.”

Next, the following firefighters were recognized and honored for their recent promotions: Captain Joshua Simmons, Captain Grant Parker, Engineer Nate Lee, Engineer Greg Ybarra, Engineer Austin Johnson, and Engineer Aaron Lusher.

The graduates were then given the stage, and were recognized one by one. Each of the graduates were escorted across the stage and pinned by loved ones. Once all of the graduates were called and pinned, they all took the stage and took their first Oath of Office.


Here are the names of graduates from Academy 24-1:

Brandon Ralls, Chris Brusenback, Jayden Garcia, Grayson Pilloff, Conner Soares, Taylor Macutta, Ayden Danovaro, Tanner Rice, Kenneth Abrahamian, Louie Souza, Dillion Tecson, Isaiah Asberry, Nicholas Brusenback, Jacob Bame, Drew Derrick, Hayden Flemming, Devon Medeiros, Carter Ross, Dustin Sumrow, Henry McClintock, Joseph DeBruyn, Noah O’Neal, Nathan Kelly, Corlun Ceraban, Anthony Jakosa, and Harley Hermosio.

“Today, we gather to honor the remarkable accomplishments of Academy 24-1,” Chief Wilson said. “Among the distinguished group of graduates before us, 24 of the 26 firefighters have benefited from the invaluable support of the SAFER grant – short for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response. This federally funded initiative, overseen by FEMA, plays a crucial role in empowering communities to increase their effective firefighting force to meet national standards.

“Our city owes a debt of gratitude to the dedicated individuals within our municipal infrastructure who have tirelessly worked to make this day possible. A special acknowledgement is owed to our City Manager’s Office, our Finance Department, and our Human Resources Department for their unwavering commitment.

“Furthermore, I express sincere appreciation to our esteemed City Council for their support and advocacy of public safety. Your collaborative efforts have been pivotal in securing the necessary resources to advance our firefighting initiatives. It would be remiss of me not to recognize the invaluable leadership of our former fire chief, Derek Parker. Chief Parker, your guidance and vision were instrumental in getting us to this significant milestone. For that, I thank you.”

Deputy Chief of Training, Tom England, also had a lot to say about this special moment.

“As you stand here, ready to graduate and take on the challenges of a noble profession, I want to take a moment to reflect on what it truly means to be a firefighter. When each of you joined the Merced Fire Department, you came with a commitment to serve, a desire to make a difference, and a willingness to face the unknown. Over the past several months, you have been forged into a team, tested by fire, both literally and metaphorically. You’ve learned the art of firefighting, the importance of teamwork, and the essential values of courage and dedication.

“I want you to remember the first time you put on your uniform, felt the weight of the bunker gear, and imagined the lives you would save. Hold onto that feeling, that sense of purpose. It will guide you through the challenges ahead. In your careers, you will see life at its most fragile moments. You will be there for the desperate calls in the dead of night when flames threaten lives and property. But you will also be there to witness the profound gratitude of those you’ve helped, and there is no reward greater than that.

“I am confident that you are ready. You have been trained by the best, to be the best. As you go forth into your stations and our community, do so with pride. Carry the lessons you have learned, uphold the traditions of those who came before you, and strive to be a beacon of hope and safety. … So, to the 26 firefighter recruits standing before me, congratulations. You have achieved something tremendous. Welcome to our family. We are proud to call you our brothers in this life-saving mission. Stay safe, stay strong, may you always find your way home, and always remember you cannot do this job without the support of your family, so take care of them, so they can take care of you.”

MercedMerced CountyMerced Fire Department
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