By Stephen Stirling
Matthew Pujdak received a standing ovation when he accepted his diploma from Mayor Michael Bloomberg during the ceremony, the first Fire Department of New York graduation of 2008. Pujdak's brother, Firefighter Daniel F. Pujdak of Ladder Company 146, died in the line of duty on June 21, 2007, while operating at a fire in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn.The graduating class was the first to complete the FDNY's new intensive 23-week training regiment, 10 weeks longer than any other program prior to it. “This class has received more advanced training than any other in the city's history, and I am confident the skills you learned will better prepare you to handle any type of emergency anywhere at any time,” Bloomberg told the graduates. “Millions of New Yorkers depend on the Bravest, and I commend you for accepting such a challenge and choosing such an honorable career.”The additional 10 weeks of training added to the regiment were devoted to engine and ladder operations, fire prevention, building construction and building inspection, as well as hazardous materials training, all of which are geared toward improving firefighter safety. “Decades ago new members worked in a firehouse under the mentorship of an officer before they received any formal training. Today, you have completed 23 weeks of the most advanced training available, and your reward is the greatest job in the world,” said FDNY Commissioner Nicholas Scopetta. Twenty-two members of the graduating class are veterans of the U.S. military while 46 members have family members who are active or retired FDNY members, including Kyle Kelty, nephew of Community Board 7 Chairman and FDNY Battalion Chief Eugene Kelty. Class valedictorian Kristopher Grills said though the job may have changed in recent years, the tradition surrounding the FDNY remains consistent. He advised his fellow graduates to apply what they have already learned but look to the veteran leadership at their new firehouses to continue to grow at their profession. “Just keep your mouth shut and your eyes and ears open. Stay low and stay safe,” he said. Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at Sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.