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From firefighter to calendar model

By ERICA JAHN

Staff writer

Kevin Juma has been fighting fires and helping injured people in Federal Way for nine years. He started as a Federal Way Fire Department volunteer in 1993 and gradually worked his way up to full-fledged firefighter.

This year, he graduated to a new level: firefighter calendar model.

Ž“I really didnŽ’t want to do it, but my wife talked me into it. This year, I gave in,Ž” he said.

ItŽ’s hard to see the country under the firefighter uniform Juma wears, but itŽ’s there. He plays the bass and sings country songs, one of which can be heard by callers placed on hold at the fire department.

After the persistent urging of his wife, Juma submitted photos of himself ŽÑ one in uniform and another topless, with bunker pants and suspenders ŽÑ to the panel of judges, who reviewed submissions from firefighters across the state and picked the 25 hottest.

He blushed when he described the photo shoot he endured and admitted heŽ’s kind of shy.

But he made the cut ŽÑŽÊto his alarm.

The reality of the calendar hasnŽ’t sunk in yet, but heŽ’s taking it in stride.

Ž“I kind of get ribbed a lot by Ryan,Ž” he said, referring to Federal Way firefighter Ryan Herrera, who made the 2001 calendar. Ž“HeŽ’s a lot younger and a lot prettier.Ž”

Other firefighters in the 2003 calendar come from Bellevue, Boeing Fire, King County Fire, Lakewood, Lynnwood, Marysville, Mercer Island, North Highline, Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Puyallup, Seattle, Shoreline, Tacoma, Tukwila and Wenatchee.

At an unveiling gala this Friday night, all 25 firefighters will see the calendar for the first time and find out which months theyŽ’ll grace.

While judges definitely look at physical appearance, dedication to the job and a commitment to service in the community also are rated. Juma scored on the looks, but he also holds a compassion for those he helps.

Ž“With EMS work, you have time when youŽ’re with the patient and you see them go through the emotional part of what theyŽ’re going through,Ž” he said. Ž“I try to put the best situation to the individual, because when they leave you, you donŽ’t know if thatŽ’s going to be it for them. It can be hard.

Ž“I still find it amazing how some peopleŽ’s faces stick with you long after a serious call, the ones you are actually able to help and bring some peace of mind to, or the ones when your face might be the last one they see. ItŽ’s these times, though sometimes tough, that I am thankful to be able to be called a firefighter.Ž”

Despite the hype surrounding the calendar, Juma said he wouldnŽ’t describe the role as glamorous. Ž“ItŽ’s a job. ItŽ’s what we do,Ž” he said. Ž“We all accept the responsibility of being here.Ž”

Firefighters who make the calendar have an intense year of public appearances and calendar signings ahead of them. The models are booked almost every weekend of the year, sometimes with more than one event on a single Saturday. They go from malls to nightclubs, signing and selling calendars for the Washington State Council of Firefighters Burn Foundation.

Firefighter calendar sales are the single biggest money-raiser for the foundation.

The Burn Foundation was founded in 1987 to raise money for burn research and development and for prevention education. Because the foundation is run by professional firefighters who volunteer their time, 100 percent of the money raised through calendar sales, judge auctions and ticket sales goes back to the foundation, which pays out grants to local agencies.

In 2001, the foundation gave $50,000 to Harborview Medical Center for elderly burn patient research, $22,000 to Franciscan Health System for a burn victim chaplain, $15,400 to the University of Washington to purchase burn research equipment, $6,300 to the International Association of Firefighters Burn Foundation and $5,000 to the Tacoma Fire Department to purchase smoke detectors for low-income and elderly housing.

A live and silent auction at the 2003 unveiling Friday will offer getaways, a firefighter brunch and a judgeship for the 2004 calendar. Organizers are hoping to raise $100,000 for the foundation.

Ultimately, the goal is to help those suffering with burn injuries.

Ž“ItŽ’s pretty traumatic, not just physically, but mentally,Ž” Juma said. Ž“Being that this is what our field is, itŽ’s pretty important to us.Ž”

The glare of publicity is a little harrowing at first for the uninitiated, but calendar models develop a sort of camaraderie and quickly get used to the attention at the signings and appearances.

Ž“After the first two or three, you have an idea of what to expect,Ž” said Herrera, Mr. April in the 2001 calendar. His group passed around comment suggestions for signings. Ž“It was a blast,Ž” he said. Ž“It was a lot of fun.Ž”

Herrera said the attention isnŽ’t what most people might expect.

Ž“People think you go out and thereŽ’s women oohing and ahhing. It was a controlled thing ŽÑŽÊthere are tables set up and you sign calendars and have fun,Ž” he said.

Despite his handsome features, sensitivity toward his patients, dedication to his job and country crooning, Juma isnŽ’t convinced ladies will be that excited to see him at calendar model events. Still, he said, itŽ’s going to be a lot of fun.

Ž“IŽ’ll bring my mom and her friends to scream,Ž” he said.

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