NORTH FORK – Friday, May 10 was a day folks in North Fork have worked towards for almost a decade. It was the dedication of the North Fork Volunteer Fire Department Station #11.
Through collaboration between the North Fork Community Development Council (CDC), the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians and the County of Madera, along with lots of hard work by the North Fork Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary, the dream of many years became a reality with the ribbon cutting ceremony at the new 3,200 square foot facility.Early Friday morning, volunteer fire department personnel gathered at the old station downtown, saying goodbye to the place they have called home for nearly 40 years. A place with lots of memories, but also lots of problems.
The clearance is about 2″ on each side backing the engine into the bay. The back walls have been plagued with water leaks, leading to mold and the constant smell of mildew.
Now the crew at Station #11 was ready to say goodbye to tight quarters and an unsafe working environment, and move into a brand new facility on Douglas Ranger Station Road.
Station Captain Diann Miller, along with Lieutenant and former Captain Augie Capuchino, Engineer Rachel Ramirez and firefighter Quentyn Brown met in front of the old station and lowered the faded, battered flag for the last time.
It will go on display in the new station, and two beautiful new flags, donated by local residents, were ready to be raised by Boy Scout Troop #357.
Before leaving the old station for the last time, the firefighters blew the old air-raid siren for a good, long, loud five minutes, bringing merchants out onto the main street to watch as Engine #11, Squad #11 and Water Tender #11 made the trip out to the new station at the old mill site.
Over 150 people gathered to celebrate the arrival of the firefighters and dedication of Station #11, including Supervisors Tom Wheeler and Rick Farinelli, Sheriff John Anderson and Undersheriff Mike Salvador, District Attorney Michael Keitz, Cal Fire Unit Chief for the Madera-Mariposa-Merced Unit Nancy Koerperich, Cal Fire Unit Commander Don Stein, and Sierra National Forest District Ranger Dave Smith.
After the arrival of the firefighters, guests took their places and were welcomed by Paul Irwin, Transportation Planner/Grants Manager for the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians, one of the key players in making the new station a reality.
Everyone then gathered outside as the flags were raised by Scouts from Troop 357, Hunter Ahrens and Kai Hansen, both 5th graders at North Fork School, assisted by Troop leader Dave Smith.
Following an Invocation by North Fork tribal citizen Barbara Burrough, Tom Wheeler, District 5 Supervisor, addressed the crowd.
As he surveyed the large facility, he reminded everyone of the day Sierra Ambulance showed up at the old station, tried to back into the bay and wouldn’t fit.
“That’s how things started over there, and now look what we’ve got,” said Wheeler. “This has been a community collaboration, from the very beginning. A lot of people made this happen.“
Wheeler said the County had $400,000 in capital improvement funds, and with the $496,000 from the North Fork Tribe’s community block grant, the financing of this project was made possible.
Those monies, combined with over $100,000 raised over nine years by the North Fork Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary, the donation of land by the North Fork CDC, the Madera County Fire Department’s donation of $3,381, Cal Fire providing time and equipment, and the sheer determination of the community, have all come together to get this $1 million-plus facility up and running.
MaryAlice Kaloostian and Mika Petrucci, representatives from Senator Tom Berryhill and Assemblyman Frank Bigelow’s offices, presented Station Captain Diann Miller with a certificate of recognition from the California State Legislature.
Elaine Bethel-Fink, North Fork Rancheria Tribal Council Chairperson recognized all the parties who worked so hard on the project, as did Tom Burdette, North Fork CDC Board member, Sandy Chaille, NFVFD Auxiliary president, and Nancy Koerperich, Unit Chief Cal Fire/Fire Chief for Madera County.
Following the ceremony, the Mono Tribe hosted a BBQ lunch at the North Fork Town Hall, catered by Famous Dave’s.
Station #11 is the first new building to be constructed at the mill site in nearly 40 years, and the town hopes it will be just the first of many more to come. The Tribe is currently constructing a facility for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program next to the fire station, with plans for a transportation facility.
Since the ribbon cutting ceremony, Jere and Diann Miller, along with the other paid call firefighters, have been busy putting the finishing touches on the station, and moving the last remaining supplies from their old office, in addition to responding to more than half-a-dozen calls.
Diann actually sealed the floors in the bays herself, and painted the concrete floors in the office and workroom. She and the rest of the crew have done countless hours of work to make everything perfect in their bright new workplace.
Last week, Wade Kimbley, owner of Mountain Valley Paving, donated his crew’s time and the materials to resurface the pavement in front and back of the station, and paint stripes in the bays.
The Millers would also like to acknowledge Dave Novell, local contractor and owner of Novell Construction, for the beautiful job his did installing and finishing the cabinets in the office and work room. Also Jim Belton, who built the drying rack and hose rack, along with the North Fork Lion’s Club who poured the concrete for the extension of the drying rack.
It has been nearly a decade of the town never taking their collective eye off the prize. The hope is to one day have a bay for Sierra Ambulance to become part of the first responders at the station, and never doubt that these folks can make that happen.