3 firefighters pass probationary period

Hired in May 2022 to fill vacancies created by retirements and promotions, three firefighters have completed their probationary year and are officially part of North Kitsap Fire & Rescue.

Billy Bergstrom grew up in Seattle’s Greenwood area and graduated from Ballard High School. He dabbled in higher education and worked in youth ministry before joining the family landscaping business and eventually purchasing it from his father. He and wife Kailey, who was raised in Kingston, moved to Indianola with their twin toddlers in 2016. Bergstrom sold the business in 2021. As part of his research for a new career, he contacted NKF&R and was inspired. He put himself through emergency medical technician training and completed NKF&R’s volunteer-intern firefighter academy where he earned several awards. Asked what he likes best about his new career Bergstrom said, “Not only do I get to help people, I get to help my neighbors.”

Quintin Schoonmaker graduated from Edison High School in Huntington Beach, CA. While attending college (he has a bachelor’s degree in Film and Electronic Arts, and a master’s in Film Studies), he worked as a police aide and in code enforcement. He got a job in film and video, but found little satisfaction from the corporate culture. Schoonmaker moved to Washington in 2020 and explored a new career. He, too, put himself through EMT school and, as a volunteer with Poulsbo Fire Department went to NKF&R’s volunteer-intern firefighter academy. In his free time, Schoonmaker, who is single and lives in Seabeck, is involved in sports; he plays softball and is an assistant football coach for Bainbridge High School. About being a firefighter, he said he’s glad to “serve the community and to be a part of something bigger.” He still edits videos but now only as a hobby.

Brady Vernik was raised in the area. Before graduation from Kingston High School, he was a league MVP in soccer. He has played semi-pro soccer in Seattle and tried several avenues after high school – including college, professional photography and construction – but none inspired him until he discovered firefighting. He was valedictorian at NKF&R’s volunteer-intern firefighter academy. Before he was hired by the district, Vernik hadn’t missed a soccer season in 19 years. But the job was so important to him that he gave up the sport for a year to ensure that his probation was injury-free and successful. He also enjoys photography, cooking, outdoor activities, and time with friends and family. He shares a Queen Anne apartment with childhood friends. Vernik said his favorite part about the job is the atmosphere around the fire station and in the community where it feels like family. “It’s great to serve in the place I was raised, where I got most of what’s good about me, and to give back.”

SUMMER SAFETY SCAVENGER HUNT – To get the scavenger hunt map, stop by our headquarters fire station or libraries at Little Boston and Kingston. The map is also available online at www.nkfr.org/summer-safety-scavenger-hunt. Complete all the steps to join us for a special celebration at the fire station Aug. 31 and an entry into a drawing for a ride in the fire engine.

Michele Laboda writes a monthly column on NKF&R for this newspaper.