Lodi firefighters, city leaders and family members gathered at Carnegie Forum on Wednesday morning to welcome two new firefighters to what Chief Larry Rooney described as the Lodi Fire Department family. They are the first new hires for the department in at least four years.
“Today’s a special day in our new department. Bringing new people into the organization is a special thing, and it hasn’t happened in the last four years, so it doesn’t happen everyday,” Rooney said.
Roger Varwig and Ryan Wentz were hired from a pool of 600 candidates who applied for the two open positions.
“When we bring people in, we run them through drills and make them jump through hoops, so we are proud of the people who are here today,” Rooney said.
The two Lodi natives have nearly a decade of experience each in fire service before being hired in Lodi.
For the last six years, Wentz, 28, has worked for the East Contra Costa Fire Department, but he has always wanted to return to Lodi, where he was born and raised.
The 2002 Lodi High School graduate started his career at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, where he got his EMT certification and an associate’s degree in public safety and health.
While he was in school, he volunteered for a year with the Waterloo-Morada Fire Department. He also attended Modesto Junior College Fire Academy in 2004.
Wentz spent two years with the Woodbridge Fire Protection District before being hired on at East Contra Costa in 2007. He quickly became an engineer while working there.
Wentz is the son of Rod and Peggy and has a sister, Kim. He enjoys competing in wake boarding, golfing, shooting and spending time with his niece and two nephews. He has also participated in the firefighter Olympics.
“I’m excited to be representing the citizens of Lodi and (to) contribute and give back to the city I’ve been raised in for so many years,” Wentz said at the ceremony.
Since he was raised in Lodi, Varwig, 29, has many friends in the Lodi Fire Department as well as the Woodbridge Fire District, where he has served for the last nine years.
The Tokay High School graduate played football and baseball in high school and also worked for his family’s construction company, L.R. Varwig and Sons, during the summer.
Varwig volunteered for the Delta Fire District and then went to Modesto Junior College to attend their fire academy. After his graduation, he returned to take classes at Delta College and became an auxiliary firefighter for the city of Stockton.
He then went to work for Woodbridge Fire District as a trainee. At the end of his nine years, he was an out-of-class lieutenant.
Varwig is the son of Melinda and Roger Varwig and has a brother, Randy. Varwig enjoys competing in water skiing, snow skiing, fishing and hunting, as well as playing sports and playing with his black lab, Cooper.
“I couldn’t be more proud to work and serve the people of Lodi,” Varwig said at the ceremony. “I really appreciate the opportunity Chief Rooney has given me, and I’m excited about a lifelong career here.”