Federal Way has one HOT firefighter

"Firefighter Ryan Herrera knows what it's like to have his body judged.The brutal physical tests required to be hired by a fire department often left him panting in exhaustion. Tests vary by department but most require a combination of strength and endurance.Herrera remembers carrying 100 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose up seven floors for the Seattle Fire Department's test. While he raced to lug the hose up the stairs within the 45 seconds allotted, a firefighter hollered at him. More disturbing, Herrera ran past plastic bags set out in case any candidates got sick.For that same test, Herrera had to pull an 80-pound sandbag attached to a rope to the top of the building in about 30 seconds. Other tests required him to bench press a certain amount of weight or perform a certain number of situps or pushups in a specified amount of time. Sometimes he took two physical tests in one day - Your legs are like rubber - an even more intense confirmation of what his body could do.That's the adrenaline, he said. You know you got to get it done.Herrera adopted that same attitude after his workout partner and friend, fire Capt. Bob Stinnett, convinced him to test for the 2001 Firefighters calendar, which benefits the Washington State Council of Fire Fighters Burn Foundation. As a result, Herrera learned the satisfaction of passing a test that required no stair-climbing, rope-hauling or sandbag-lifting. He also gained an appreciation for the fact that sometimes being pressured into something by a buddy can be a good thing. He was initially hesitant because he knew he would receive a ribbing from fellow firefighter/EMTs with the Federal Way Fire Department. Many of the firefighters featured in the calendar are barechested, and some are smudged with soot or covered in beads of water. But Herrera, who's worked for the department since September, 1998, ultimately accepted the test to see if he had what it took to get him in the calendar.He passed the test. The 27-year-old Federal Way resident appears in the calendar as Mr. April, wearing a helmet, pants held up by suspenders and no shirt. In the main, up-close photo of him, Herrera looks contemplative. The other photo featured shows Herrera's well-developed chest and six-pack abdominals.Unlike the physical tests required to be hired by a fire department, the calendar competition offered uncertainty. In the fire department tests, he passed if he could lift the required weight or complete an exercise in a specific amount of time. Herrera didn't know exactly what the calendar judges wanted.I just went into it with no expectations, he said. I went a lot further than I thought I would.Herrera had to be talked into trying out for the calendar but he needed no convincing to become a firefighter. Ever since he was a boy in California, Herrera wanted to work as a firefighter and would watch whenever a fire truck zoomed by.In high school, Herrera and a friend would visit a nearby station. The firefighters showed them how the jaws of life worked and let them slide down the pole that led from the firefighters' sleeping quarters to the trucks. They described fires they'd been on and patiently answered the boys' barrage of questions, including Were you afraid? and Did you get burnt?After graduating from high school in 1991, Herrera moved to Washington and worked in fire residency programs, which he likens to an internship, briefly at Port Orchard and for two and a half years at North Kitsap, which put him through the nine-week firefighter academy.It's like boot camp, he said. You spend most of the time doing pushups and having them yell at you.No yelling occurred at the calendar judging. After being selected as one of 30 finalists, based on his application and photos of him with and sans shirt, he attended the judging at Pike Place Brewery. The finalists were told to wear tight, white T-shirts and to mingle with the female judges, who were mostly TV news personalities like Christine Chen and Leslie Miller from Q13 Reports.Herrera, who's usually shy in groups, worried about walking into the middle of a crowded room and starting conversations with the judges. But the relaxed attitude of the women put him at ease.When he found out he made the final cut, Herrera did what he would do for any physical challenge - he hit the gym. During the two weeks prior to the photo shoot, he worked out twice a day. He dropped from 195 to 175 pounds and measured only 5 percent body fat.But the 18 final judges considered more than tight abs and bulging biceps. About 120 people applied for the calendar, said Rod Heivilin, president of the burn foundation, who helped cull the applicants to 30. That was based chiefly on looks. The final judges, however, gave personality equal weight.This isn't just a pretty boy calendar, Heivilin said. We're here to raise money for burn victims. That's a message we have to get across. I can have the best looking guy in the world but if he can't get it across he's not going to do me any good.Chen said she doesn't remember Herrera specifically because the judging was early last year. But she looked for more than a pretty face. To accomplish that, she asked the candidates why they do their jobs and heard stories about the joys of rescuing children.A hunk is not a hunk unless he has substance, she said. There are a lot of good-looking men. It's more rare to find a good-looking man with a heart.Women who show up at signings appreciate Herrera's attractive package. Posing for the calendar gave Herrera a new understanding of women - I never knew women were this bad. At calendar signings, he typically autographs between 150 and 250 calendars. He and the other firefighters in the calender field plenty of requests to write something dirty. They oblige by writing things like Let's practice a little mouth to mouth. If they run out of calendars, women ask them to sign their bodies. Although disappointed a close-up shot appeared as the main photo of him and teasingly called calendar boy by co-workers, Herrera said he's pleased he let Stinnett talk him into trying out. He feels the way he felt about getting on with the Federal Way Fire Department, which made the tough physical tests worth the effort. I was a little skeptical (about the calendar), he said. Making it is what made it worth it. "

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