KFD 2012 recruits.
February 17, 2011 fire at Eastowne Village Apartments.
Billy Espiritu at KFD orientation.
The Knoxville Fire Department has 21 new recruits.
Many have a personal reason for joining the ranks, but for one man, it was a tragedy that made him to want to fight fires.
It was February 17, 2011.
"I was on my way to work," said Billy Espiritu, "When I got the call about the fire."
Billy Espiritu's uncle, John Dillard, was inside the Eastowne Village Apartments when it burst into flames. Crews battled the blaze for hours. In the end, Billy's uncle didn't make it out alive.
Watching the firefighters' effort and strength changed Billy's life forever.
"When we figured out that he didn't get out, they broke the news to us and helped soothe us in a way," explained Espiritu, "It's hard to explain, they were really good to us and from that point on this is all I wanted to do."
Two weeks after the fire, Billy put in his application to become a Knoxville firefighter.
Finally, after a year of physicals, interviews, and tests, Espiritu has his chance.
He said, "To be one of the select few, it's a dream come true."
Billy isn't the only one who sits at orientation because of an experience with KFD.
"I've also had a child that has had some medical issues and we have been helped by the fire department and it's touched my heart," said recruit Daniel Jobe.
Jobe, too, changed his career, "Learning a whole lot in a short amount of time and sweating a lot in a short amount of time."
Assistant Chief Chris Dyer will now spend 28 weeks making sure these men are ready to be a firefighter.
"This is an every day job," said Dyer, "It is a dirty, nasty, grimy job. They want to be a public servant, they want to serve their neighbors in their community, and that is the biggest thing."
For Billy, he believes he's at orientation because of what he saw February 17, 2011-- men and women who fought hard to save his uncle.
Billy said, "It moved me in a sense that I wanted to be able to help people."
The recruits will spend 28 weeks in training. Then another six months under close supervision.