Three firefighters join the brigade

When Vince Lombardi used to ride a firetruck through town, it meant the Green Bay Packers had won another Super Bowl.

But when Vince Lombardi, 21, jumps on a Bremerton Fire Department engine in coming weeks, he’ll just be doing his job.

Lombardi, a fifth cousin to the legendary professional football coach, is one of three new firefighters hired by the BFD in recent weeks.

Lombardi, a native of Yakima, and Brad Richard, of Poulsbo, began training in Bremerton last week, while paramedic Joe Cross, of Des Moines (Wash.) was hired by the BFD more than a month ago.

Lombardi said he is not bothered by his famous name.

“With the name like this,” Lombardi said. “It’s easy to get recognition and people always remember it. Plus a lot of respect goes along with it because of what he (Vince Lombardi) did for football. I would have to say that in my life, the name has not been a hindrance. It’s been a blessing.”

Lombardi was a firefighter in training for Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue from September 1999 to September 2001. The decision to return to Kitsap County was an easy one, he said.

He is a 1999 graduate of West Valley High School in Yakima.

Meanwhile, Richard gave up one challenging career for another when he signed on for the BFD. Richard, a 1984 North Kitsap High School graduate, was an Alaskan fisherman for 14 years.

“I was looking for a career change,” Richard said. “In firefighting, right away I appreciated the sense of camaraderie.”

After just a few days working at a Poulsbo Fire Station, Richard knew he had found his next profession.

“This is awesome,” Richard said at the time.

Plus, Richard was married fairly recently. He said the nomadic fisherman’s lifestyle was “not very conducive to family life.”

He said going from the dangerous life of a purse seiner or long-line fisherman in Alaska to that of a firefighter is not because of an inner need for an active lifestyle.

“I’m not a thrill seeker,” he said.

Richard was a resident firefighter for North Kitsap Fire and Rescue and after completing an eight-week firefighter certification program, he wanted a job within a “commutable distance.”

Cross, 33, is the third member to join the BFD. He had been working for 10 years as an EMT in Lewis County. He graduated from Tyee High School near Sea-Tac Airport.

Bremerton Fire Chief Al Duke said each of the men will get more training on BFD operations and procedures before being dispatched on engine and ambulance calls.

He said Cross, who is already a paramedic, may be pressed into action sooner than Lombardi and Richard who may not respond for “two to three weeks.”

“You have to watch them and make sure they don’t get themselves into trouble or anyone else either,” Duke said.

Each man came to firefighting and emergency medical aid work differently.

Cross’ choice was easy — his father and several uncles were firefighters.

Richard gave up an exciting and often dangerous life fishing for salmon and herring and could have returned to a construction career, but chose not to.

“I was looking for something that I could have a passion for,” Richard said.

As for Lombardi, he has wanted to be a firefighter since “about the eighth grade.”

Why he became a firefighter could be made into a saying. His famous football coach relative was quite a quipster himself.

Young Lombardi said, “I wanted a job that was such, that every day I got up, I really wanted to go to work.”

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