YOSEMITE LAKES PARK – It was an evening of celebration and community as two new Paid Call Firefighters were pinned and three veterans were promoted and honored at Station #10 in Yosemite Lakes Park on Thursday, June 20.
As Station 10 celebrates 30 years of serving the YLP community, Erik Lawson and Sean Kelley joined the ranks of the volunteers at the Madera County Fire Department station, having completed months of rigorous training to earn their qualifications.
“These two gentlemen have made a commitment to serve not only their community, but one another, and that should not be taken lightly,” said Cal Fire Division 5 Battalion Chief Chris Christopherson.
Over the last six months, the new recruits have gone through training that includes, among other things, basic first aid and firefighting, structure and wildland fire training, structure search and rescue, and firefighter safety and survival.
Before the new firefighters were pinned, Station 10 Captain Christopher Haynes put into perspective just what it takes to assume this huge responsibility.
“Firefighters define courage. There are not many volunteer groups who are expected to be on call 24/7, leave their jobs at a moment’s notice, put down their children and rush to the scene of an emergency, placing themselves in harm’s way for the sake of, quite often, a complete stranger’s life.
“It is often taken for granted the time and effort and the hundred of hours of training that these men and women put in, all the special events they miss, all the time away from their families for the sake of helping others. And no doubt when tragedies happened, they take it personally, asking themselves over and over in their heads, was there anything else they could have done to change the outcome. Most of the time, there is not. You simply give your all, regardless of the outcome, and your community is grateful for the service you provide.”
Sean Kelley is a 5th grade teacher at Madera Unified School District, and was the first to be pinned.
“The great thing about volunteer service is, not only do we get a new firefighter, but someone with a lot of life experience,” said Haynes of this new member of the team. “This really enriches our station and our community.”
Erik Lawson was the next to join the ranks at Station 10, bringing the number of Paid Call Firefighters to 14. Lawson works full-time at the Tenaya Lodge, and lives near the YLP area, just off Road 415.
“Erik is a great asset to the station, and we’re honored to have him,” said Haynes, adding, “and he’s real close!”
Haynes then announced the promotion of three firefighters to the position of 2nd Lieutenant, starting with Brian Donaghy.
“Brian has the experience and the time on board, and he is a proven leader,” said Haynes. “He has been a member of our department for 10 years, and at Station 10 for a year. His response time is rated extremely high, he is a dedication individual, an honorable person and a good family man.”
Donaghy was presented with a plaque honoring his 10 years of service to the Madera County Fire Department.
The next firefighter promoted to 2nd Lieutenant was Randy Myers.
“Randy’s father was a firefighter for the City of Fresno,” said Haynes, “and Randy is my neighbor. If you live next to me, I’m going to eventually get you here!”
Haynes then honored one of their own who has served the longest of anyone at the station.
“This person is probably one of my most favorite firefighters here,” said Haynes. “She’s been with the department for about 17 years, and is the most peaceful and loving person I know. Please come up and be promoted, Helen George.”
Gus Lavell was called up next to be pinned with Engineer bars, and recognized with a plaque for 10 years of service to the Madera County Fire Department.
“If you’re pushing around a piece of equipment, you’ll recognize him on the fire line and in the station,” said Haynes. “Gus recently transferred up to Station 10 from Station 1, and their loss is our gain.”
Captain Haynes then called up the last to be recognized, this one as Firefighter of the Year, Paul Cliby.
“The minute Paul walked through the door, he brought a calming effect to our station, and a professionalism and dedication that is amazing,” said Haynes. “This guy has a full time job as a fire engineer in Fresno. He has been working there 34 years, and every week he goes and donates food and helps distribute it to people who are less fortunate than we are. He also drives a school bus for the school district. This guy does a lot for his community, and I’m honored to present him with Firefighter of the Year for Station 10.”
The firefighters are not the only ones who work hard to make the station such an asset to the community. The Ladies of the Lakes and the Fire Department Auxiliary have devoted countless hours to fundraising and supporting Station 10 over the years.
Elaine Myers, wife of newly promoted firefighter Randy Myers, was recognized for her work with the Auxiliary.
“She doesn’t want to be singled out or have a title, but she has helped unify and build our Auxiliary, our support services and our fundraising network and marketing,” said Haynes.
Battalion Chief Christopherson closed with these thoughts, “I would like to express on behalf of Madera County Fire Department, in cooperation with Cal Fire, our extreme gratitude for your commitment, your efforts, your kindness and sincerity, and your true professionalism in the face of fear and tragedy alike.
“But as much as we give, our families give so much more. We have a strong bond with one another built through all our training and answering the call, and that bond becomes very strong, but don’t forget that the bond you have with your families needs to be even stronger. Take the opportunity when you get home from a call to kiss your loved ones, hug your children, say thank you to someone, and give them a hug.”
The Firefighter’s Prayer
When I am called to duty, God, whenever flames may rage;
Give me strength to save some life, whatever be its age.
Help me embrace a little child before it is too late,
Or save an older person from the horror of that fate.
Enable me to be alert and hear the weakest shout,
And quickly and efficiently to put the fire out.
I want to fill my calling and to give the best in me,
To guard my every neighbor and protect his property.
And if, according to my fate, I am to lose my life;
Please bless with your protecting hand
my children and my wife.