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Ready for their closeups

Firefighter calendar creator Tammi Spinner is surrounded by a few of her models, who display their pictures in the Firefighters of Central Whidbey calendar. Clockwise from top left are Lt. Jerry Helm, Spinner, Capt. Robert Spinner, Chris Roth and firefighter/EMT Derek LaFontaine. - Jim Larsen
Firefighter calendar creator Tammi Spinner is surrounded by a few of her models, who display their pictures in the Firefighters of Central Whidbey calendar. Clockwise from top left are Lt. Jerry Helm, Spinner, Capt. Robert Spinner, Chris Roth and firefighter/EMT Derek LaFontaine.
— image credit: Jim Larsen

Whidbey Island's emergency dispatch center could soon get a 911 call that goes something like this:

"Help! There's a fire! Hurry! And could you please send Mr. January?"

That's because Central Whidbey Fire & Rescue firefighters have revealed plenty of beefcake and a little cheesecake in a good-natured effort to raise funds for the department. Featured together in a new, 2003 calendar, a dozen Central Whidbey's firefighters are destined to be icons of sexy heroism for the coming year.

The district, which provides fire protection and rescue services for islanders in Greenbank and Coupeville, is the first on the island to put out a calendar of this type. Under the creative and artistic leadership of Tammi Spinner, wife of Capt. Robert Spinner, a dozen firefighters peeled off pieces of clothing or at least agreed to pose for the calendar.

Chief Joe Biller took the most modest approach. "Mr. December" is seen wearing his white starched shirt, helmet in hand, with one foot on the running board of an antique fire engine.

More risque, and more appealing to females, no doubt, is Mr. January, Lt. Jerry Helm. He is pictured in the calendar leaning against the front bumper of a fire engine, firefighting coat open to reveal a lean, bare chest. He's relaxed, young and looking thoughtful and perhaps even vulnerable in a tough sort of way, like a firefighting James Dean.

"Mr. January gets the most attention from the young women in the area," said Tammi Spinner. "I do think his picture turned out the best."

Males may beg to differ. The only female model, Firefighter Kim Duane, is fetching as she wields a hydraulic cutting device in a way it's probably never been wielded before.

Since the calendar came out last week, the firefighter models are the talk of Central Whidbey. The dreamy Helm has even taken it upon himself to assure sales are good. Spinner said he has sold more calendars than anyone else.

Helm, 23, is a 1998 graduate of Coupeville High School. Like all the models, he takes the resulting teasing in good fun.

"It's exciting," he said. "I knew what I was getting into, but it's all for a good cause."

Money raised through sales of the $10 calendars will go toward the purchase of a thermal imaging camera for the fire department. Spinner said such cameras cost around $10,000. It will allow firefighters to find people in smoky buildings or in the water. Upon arriving at a fire scene, the heat-sensitive camera can also be used to find out exactly where the fire is.

Beyond buying equipment, the calendar effort was a way for the department to relate positively to the community, Spinner said.

"This calendar was put together to raise funds for a great cause, but it was also put together to show you the lighter side of our fire department," Spinner writes on the calendar's first page. "To get to know the faces of the people who go out in our community every day ready to put their lives on the line. It goes beyond the 12 people in this calendar. There are many other people dedicated to making their community safer."

The calendar is entirely the product of Tammi Spinner's volunteer talent, energy and skills. She recruited the models, posed them in creative firefighter settings, took the pictures, and designed the calendar on her home computer. The color pictures look great on the high-quality paper in the calendar. She printed the pages on the fire district's new color copy machine. She estimated the cost of materials at $200.

Other models are firefighter Jeff Porter brawnily tapping a fire hydrant; firefighter Derek LaFontaine, posing barechested at the open door of a fire engine; Firefighter/EMT Aaron Kuhn about to enter a fire engine; Lt. Troy Donlin posing in black T-shirt, red suspenders and helmet; Capt. Robert Spinner, bare-chested with his fireman's coat sliding off his shoulders; firefighter/EMT Chris Ross, packing hose and an axe; firefighter Alex Majestic, bare-chested with coat slung over his shoulder; Capt. Gary Smart, looking tough and loaded with equipment on his way to a rescue; and firefighter Lonnie Williams, with hose draped across his bare chest.

The project was a labor of love for all involved, and Spinner said she didn't coerce anyone into any particular pose.

"Some show skin, others do not," she said. "They were all pretty easy to persuade. Whatever you're comfortable with, and they're comfortable with their shirts off. They're so easy to work with."

Firefighter Derek LaFontaine, Mr. March, said they have only one worry: "The other fire districts are going to rib us about it."

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