The Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Department promoted two firefighters to the rank of engineer Wednesday and recognized another engineer who recently retired. Fire Chief Shauwn Howell welcomed first responders, guests and families to a ceremony at Fire Station No. 1 within the Joe Thomas Public Safety Complex. Howell said firefighters do more than rescue people from fires — they provide life-saving first aid to people who are suffering shortness of breath and to those who are injured in car wrecks.

Howell lauded Josh Reed and Justin Thompson, who were promoted from firefighter to engineer. Both men have worked for the department for four years and are nationally registered emergency medical technicians. Howell recognized Nick Clark, who retired in June as an engineer after 15 years of employment with the department.

“It is always an honor to see people progressing throughout the system,” Howell said. “And this is just the first step of many to come.”

Howell gave a plaque to Clark and welcomed him to speak. Clark responded with a succinct: “Bye and be safe.”

Howell thanked families of firefighters for teaming with the department, calling them a family. Howell alluded to the dangers of fighting fires.

“We have our ups and down that takes you through a range of emotions,” Howell said. “Our emotions and activities are all over the place. Having that high and low can be draining on you. If we can keep our work environment as stress-free as possible, we try to do that.”

District Judge John Kearney conducted the swearing in of Reed and Thompson by asking them to promise to uphold the United States Constitution, the Arkansas Constitution, the laws of Pine Bluff, and the rules/regulations/policies of the Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Department. Their colleagues and families applauded at the conclusion of the ceremony. Pine Bluff Mayor Shirley Washington commended firefighters for protecting citizens by showing courage and strength in the midst of danger.

“[This ceremony] is an opportunity to commend some of our celebrated employees in our city,” Washington said. “This occasion is not an easy one. Often there is no recognition for the job that you do in the name of public service. Yet you continue to perform your tasks diligently and with such great honor.”

Washington lauded the firefighters for saving people from fires. She lamented the recent death of a 3-year-old child who died of injuries suffered in a fire at the Pineywood Apartments. The family of this child had recently moved to Pine Bluff, she said. She said she learned the department gave $300 to that family to help pay for funeral services. Washington commended the department for going beyond the call of duty to assist a family in need.

“I think it is a great day when we are gathered to honor the achievements of our first responders, our firefighters,” Washington said. “Today we want to thank you for helping us to honor them, these our civil servants. Your dedication is watching over the citizens providing education and community support sends a resounding message that Pine Bluff is indeed a caring city.”

The ranks within the Pine Bluff Fire and Emergency Services Department range from probationary firefighter, firefighter, engineer, lieutenant, captain, battalion chief, assistant fire chief and fire chief.