NORTH FORK – Fire engines, squads, water tenders, ambulances and patrol units lined Road 222 yesterday as Battalion Chiefs, CHP officers, Sheriff’s deputies, Citizens of Patrol, Auxiliary members and firefighters from as far away as Chowchilla turned out to pay their respects to 43-year veteran of Madera County Fire Department Station 11, Frank Verduzco.
The main street of North Fork was lined with people who wanted to bid their final farewell to a man who has served his community, and others across the state, for so many decades.
After 30 units of first responders rolled through town, firefighters from Cal Fire, Madera County Fire, Mariposa County Fire, the U.S. Forest Service and the City of Chowchilla stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a “Sea of Blue,” lining the walkway into the Town Hall as a traditional show of respect.
The overflow crowd at the Celebration of Life for Frank Verduzco bore witness to the intense loss felt by the North Fork community and the fire service, over his untimely death. He was just 64 years old.
“He traded a round trip ticket to Vegas for a one-way trip to paradise,” she said. “See you there, brother.”
Frank’s three fire helmets were presented, one to each of his three daughters – April, Gail, and Cassie – by Battalion Chief Chris Christopherson, Assemblyman and Station 17 firefighter Frank Bigelow, and Station 11 fellow firefighter Augie Capucino. Cassie was also presented with the California State Flag by Unit Chief Nancy Koerperich.
The “Last Alarm” was sounded, a tradition signifying that a firefighter’s duties are well done and that they are “returning to quarters.”
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 your will, I must answer death’s call,
Please bless with your protecting hand
my family one and all.