DACULA -- Bagpipes wailed and 48 men and women made their way across the stage Thursday afternoon, as two record-breaking recruit classes officially became Gwinnett County firefighters and EMTs and enabled three new fire stations to be opened this weekend.
In the chapel at Hebron Baptist Church in Dacula, a graduating class too large for the ceremony's typical home at the justice center was added to the county's emergency service personnel.
"You're going to see some things that change your lives, and you're going to see people, that you're going to change their lives," County Administrator Glenn Stephens said in his address. "And when you do that, you're going to have an impact on life in general, and I thank you for that."
One of the largest graduating classes in Gwinnett history, some of the 48 will go directly into service as firefighters, others as EMTs with fire training still to come.
Because of their addition, the county will be able to open three fire stations on Saturday.
"Having these personnel is going to allow us to make the necessary transfers to be able to open these stations," fire department spokesman Capt. Tommy Rutledge said. "In fact, we're opening them early."
Opening two days ahead of schedule, two brand new stations and another updated, relocated and reinforced station will be available for service.
Stations No. 29 (located at 2800 Thompson Mill Road in Buford) and No. 30 (at 1052 Ozora Road in Loganville) will open for the first time on Saturday. Station No. 18 (at 1515 Mineral Springs Road in Hoschton) will be reopened as a three-bay facility with an additional ladder company, Rutledge said.
"We've always had the unwavering support of our citizens, our county administrator and our Board of Commissioners," Rutledge said. "They've met their commitment to public safety, and these recruits that are graduating today and the stations that are opening are evidence of that."