Ten-year veteran firefighter Michael Alegre says he still loves his job as an engineer for the Lodi Fire Department. But he says the best part isn’t running into burning buildings or pulling on his firefighting gear.
“My favorite thing is when I meet a little boy or girl and get to show them around the engine,” he said. “Their eyes get so big, and they are so excited.”
Alegre’s passion for his work was recognized by his fellow firefighters on Wednesday when he was named Firefighter of the Year for 2012. This is his second time to win the award.
Fire Chief Larry Rooney presented Alegre with a plaque at Wednesday’s Lodi City Council meeting, where 20 of his coworkers in blue uniforms filled the back rows of seats.
“It’s pretty gratifying because this isn’t just something I’m picked for. All the other guys vote on it. It’s good to know my work is validated that way,” Alegre said.
Alegre graduated from Tokay High School in 1998, where he enrolled in fire science classes that inspired his search for work as a firefighter.
“I’ve actually worked with all three of my former instructors,” he said.
Alegre’s career started 10 years ago, when he was first hired for Station 3. At 23, he was the youngest firefighter in town. He was also the youngest to earn Firefighter of the Year in 2006, and was promoted to fire engineer in July 2007.
He was nominated by fellow engineer Tim Ortegel, who says Alegre puts in outstanding efforts to keep the EMS supplies ready for each call and help train his coworkers to maintain certification requirements.
Alegre also takes a special interest in working on the annual Santa Truck event every December.
Rooney said some of the EMS-related work Alegre does is normally a job for a captain, but he steps up without being asked.
Since the last time Alegre was honored with this award, he said he has learned to be a lot more calm.
“Things don’t always happen as fast as you want them to on a call,” he said. “It’s about the long war, not the short battle.”
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.