North Naples station swears in 6 new firefighters

Three years ago Dustin Gourley of Bonita Springs was a second-year student at Florida International University with a double-major in civil engineering and construction management.

He was busy, but he was lost.

"I was trying the college life, but I didn't feel like I was accomplishing anything," Gourley said.

So one night Gourley called his father, Chief Dan Gourley of the Bonita Springs Fire District.

"I said, 'Even though I'm in college, what do I have to do to get into the fire department?' " Gourley said.

On Friday afternoon at North Naples Fire Station 45, 1885 Veterans Park Drive, Gourley, now 22, and five other new firefighters were sworn in after completing a six-week training program. Chief Dan Gourley was present to pin a badge on his son's chest. Deputy Chief John Spicuzza of the Iona McGregor Fire District also was present to pin a badge to the chest of his son, Michael Spicuzza.

"It was a very proud moment to see that he picked a career in the fire service," Chief Gourley said. "He grew up in the fire service. He's sat on trucks before, he's been at the fire house, he's been around different emergencies that I've been on."

Newly inducted firefighters from left, Tulio Sandoval, Michael Spicuzza (shaved head), Justin Gibson, Wayne Burke and Scott Castellano get doused with water after posing for a photo following their induction ceremony Friday afternoon at the North Naples Fire Department. The group had no clue about the water until it came crashing down on them.

Photo by Anthony Souffle, Daily News

Newly inducted firefighters from left, Tulio Sandoval, Michael Spicuzza (shaved head), Justin Gibson, Wayne Burke and Scott Castellano get doused with water after posing for a photo following their induction ceremony Friday afternoon at the North Naples Fire Department. The group had no clue about the water until it came crashing down on them.

Like Gourley, Michael Spicuzza, 24, didn't grow up with dreams of following in his father's firefighter footsteps. But after high school he started volunteering at another local fire department and developed a passion for the work.

That's why having his father pin his badge to his chest was so special, he said.

"It was something I've been waiting for a long time," Spicuzza said. "It gave me the chills."

Chief Spicuzza said he always wanted his son to be a firefighter, but didn't want to push him into it. Being a firefighter is an extremely difficult job that is different from any other job, he said.

"It's the best job in the world, but you have to be in it for the right reasons," Chief Spicuzza said. "I wanted him to make that decision to be a firefighter because he wanted to be, not because I wanted him to be."

Chief Spicuzza said becoming a firefighter has changed his son's attitude completely about his life and future. And even though their two departments aren't in proximity to one another, he is looking forward to possibly working with his son on a call some day.

Firefighter Michael Spicuzza gets a hug from his father, Deputy Chief John Spicuzza of the Iona McGregor Fire Department, after his father pined on his badge during the induction ceremony Friday afternoon at the North Naples Fire Department. In the group of six new recruits, two had fathers who are currently serving as firefighters.

Photo by Anthony Souffle, Daily News

Firefighter Michael Spicuzza gets a hug from his father, Deputy Chief John Spicuzza of the Iona McGregor Fire Department, after his father pined on his badge during the induction ceremony Friday afternoon at the North Naples Fire Department. In the group of six new recruits, two had fathers who are currently serving as firefighters.

"That would be awesome," Chief Spicuzza said. "There's a chance I might see him out there at one of the big ones."

Friday's ceremony was about 45 minutes long and was attended by family members and friends of the new firefighters as well as a number of current and retired members of the profession. Firefighters Wayne Burke, Scott Castellano, Justin Gibson and Tulio Sandoval were presented their badges by Assistant Chief John German.

"Its the beginning of a lifelong journey for these guys," German said. "We want them to always remember this day."

During their six-week training firefighters take part in a number of team-building exercises, simulated searches, simulated high-rise fires and car fires, and hose-line drills. The firefighters complete all the drills wearing full bunker gear and air packs. They also learn EMS protocols and take written tests.

"It's probably the most physically and mentally draining six weeks this side of Marine Corps basic training," German said.

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