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    Firefighters tap newfound sex appeal

    They pose for a ''Hottest Heroes'' calendar that raises money for the Widows and Children's Fund.

    By TAMARA LUSH, Times Staff Writer
    © St. Petersburg Times
    published September 8, 2002


    TAMPA -- Sex appeal is a funny thing.

    Before Sept. 11, most women probably would have listed the names of actors, rock stars and athletes as the sexiest men in America.

    No more. Now, the hallmarks of sex appeal are soot, sweat and suspenders.

    Being a firefighter is officially the sexiest profession in the country.

    "Oh! Those yellow pants and suspenders!" said Miranda Kelly, 30, of Apollo Beach. She is grinning from ear to ear as she says this, and her eyes twinkle under silver shadow. She is single and has never dated a firefighter, but would very much like to.

    "They get sweaty and dirty," she said. "It's the hero thing, too."

    Ahhh, the hero thing.

    Since they toiled, cried and died in New York on Sept. 11, men in uniform have become the romantic gold standard. They are symbols of stability, good values and America itself.

    Especially firefighters.

    So in the spirit of good, sexy fun -- and all for charity -- a female firefighter named Keely Riveiro, from Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, decided to organize the county's first firefighter-beefcake calendar.

    "Girlfriends are always asking me to hook them up, asking who's single," said Riveiro, who is married to a burly mechanic. For years, she has wanted to organize a calendar and market it to the women who love firefighters.

    "Hottest Heroes of Hillsborough -- To Your Rescue in 2003" was unveiled before 400 women on Friday night at Channelside. Copies went on sale Saturday at Eckerd drugstores.

    Proceeds will go to the Widows and Children's Fund, which pays health care benefits and education for the families of fallen firefighters.

    County firefighters started the fund after one of their own, Darryl Dzugen, died on the job last fall. He left behind a wife and two children.

    Thirteen of the department's firefighters are featured in the $15 calendar. More than 30 vied to be the models.

    Firefighters expect the 10,000 copies to sell out quickly. They may order a second printing.

    There's Mr. January 2003, Carlos Jaramillo, of Station 4. He's single, 35 and enjoys fishing and camping. By the looks of his photo, he's adept at opening fire hydrants without his shirt on.

    Mr. April is Mario "Cobra" Nales, of Station 19. He is 48, grew up in West Tampa and is married. He bears a strong resemblance to Sylvester Stallone.

    Mr. January 2004 is Robert "Dusty" Whitfield. He is a battalion chief at Station 21 and is the oldest hot hero at 57. According to his calendar biography, he is single, likes to collect antiques and enjoys chasing women.

    Only Whitfield and one other firefighter -- Danny Dye, Mr. June, married, enjoys baling hay -- posed with their shirts on.

    Liz Auten, 35, and Tonya Little, 32, both of Brandon, went to the Channelside party on Friday. They were among the first in line to buy calendars.

    "How could you not after seeing . . ." Auten's voice trailed off as she opened the calendar to Cary Jarriel, Mr. February, 30, single, sporting impressive abs. ". . . That?"

    "They're there to serve us. How sexy is that?" said Little. "That's probably the sexiest thing about them."

    "There's definitely a demand (since Sept. 11)," said Joe Chiellini, Mr. August, 32, who sports a tattoo on his right biceps. But Chiellini said some women have always loved men who battle flames.

    Take Karyn O'Connor of Tampa. A fan of the movie Backdraft, she tries to maximize her chances of meeting a firefighter.

    When she notices a firetruck with its lights and siren on, O'Connor sometimes follows it.

    "Just to see them jumping off the truck."

    She also has been known to stop at fire stations to ask for directions. "It's a sensible single-woman thing to do," she said.

    Although Chiellini has a girlfriend, he said the unattached firefighters featured in the calendar aren't minding the attention. If they get a phone number or a date out of the whole thing, that's just part of the job.

    "We are public servants," Chiellini said. "Let's not forget that."

    * * *

    For information on the "Hottest Heroes of Hillsborough" calendar, go to www.hottestheroes.com.

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