OAKHURST – Over 100 firefighters and their friends, family and supporters gathered at the Oakhurst Community Center Sunday afternoon to honor and acknowledge the Paid Call Firefighters in Madera County.
Paid Call Firefighters are volunteers who serve their communities by answering dispatches to everything from traffic accidents to medical emergencies, but are only paid when something is actually on fire.
There are over 160 Paid Call Firefighters in Madera County, according the Cal Fire Battalion Chief Chris Christopherson.
Their contribution to emergency response efforts in their communities is invaluable. While their Basic Ops training is provided free of charge, they generally pay for their own travel and other types of training such EMT and driver’s training courses.
This is a job that requires a tremendous amount of dedication, and a substantial investment of time and money. These volunteers invest countless hours, not only in training, but in responding to calls all over the mountain area and beyond.
Most people are probably not aware that when they call 911, the first responders who show up to offer assistance for a medical emergency or a traffic accident are probably Paid Call Firefighters, and are not being compensated financially for coming to their aid.
According to information provided by North Fork Volunteer Fire Department #11 Station Captain Diann Miller, 64% of all calls responded to by Station #11 in 2012 were medical aid assistance, and only 13% structure or vegetation fires.
Most firefighters in the United States are volunteers, and the percentage increases in more rural areas.
To grasp the total picture of what these volunteers do, here is a description posted by the County of Madera in March 2010, of the duties and requirements of a Paid Call Firefighter:
EXAMPLES OF IMPORTANT AND ESSENTIAL DUTIES
Responds to fire, medical, and other emergency alarms; utilizes special equipment and responds to structural and wildland fires, vehicle accidents, rescues and medical aid emergency calls; performs rescue, entry, ventilation, and salvage work; performs post fire or disaster clean-up and overhaul work; directs incoming emergency traffic to standby operations; performs emergency lifesaving activities; extracts victims from accidents using rescue tools; assists in the training of PCF company members; maintains and cares for fire apparatus, equipment, fire station buildings and grounds; operates Fire Department owned and operated vehicles during non-emergency conditions when licensed and authorized; keeps records and prepares reports as required; participates in continuing training programs of technical material; participates in company training drills and classes, and attends specialized training sessions; studies County geography, fire hazards, and firefighting resources; and assists with Fire Prevention and Education programs.
Incumbents are required to maintain minimum certifications and mental and physical agility standards and qualifications as established by State, Federal, and Fire Department policy. Additionally, incumbents will be required to successfully complete and maintain the required minimum criteria for emergency response and training as established in the Fire Department Policy. Paid Call Firefighters perform duties comparable to that of regular full-time professional Firefighters.
Not only do most of these folks have jobs that they leave when the call comes in, they are also asked to respond during birthday parties and weddings, school plays and soccer games. Many of those first on the scene at the Gold Fire in O’Neals on Tuesday were Paid Call. This dedication to service was celebrated on Sunday, Apr. 28, in Oakhurst.
For over 25 years, Paid Call Firefighters in Madera County have been recognized with a luncheon, prepared and served by Cal Fire Battalion Chiefs, Station Captains and firefighters. The food is provided by donations from Pistoresi Ambulance and Sierra Ambulance, along with funds raised from the previous year’s luncheon.
After BBQed chicken and tri-tip, along with Chris Christopherson’s family recipe green beans, dozens of donated prizes were raffled off. That was followed by a hotly contested auction for a powder-coated bright red fire hydrant, won by a very determined Cindy Capuchino who told husband Augie, North Fork firefighter, to get out the checkbook, and then donated $360 in exchange for the honor of taking it home.
Proceeds from the hydrant, which was contributed by Company #1, will help boost their equipment fund.
Before the action at the raffle tables got underway, Cal Fire Division Chief Don Stein addressed the heart of the matter, and honored the milestones of those who have served:
5 Years of Service –
14 Beau Arata
1 Richard Azevedo
13 Antonio Conti
19 David Etheridge
1 Noe Gonzalez
18 James Greer
13 Adam Harkenrider
13 Steven Madosky
19 Garrick Newman
19 Lydia Rodriguez
10 Michael Smith
10 Years of Service –
2 James Cunningham
9 Dawn Davies
9 John Davies
1/10 Chris Lavell
19 Anthony Myers
2 Daniel Turner
15 Years of Service –
16 Ray Brackney
25 Years of Service –
18 Gary Williams
30 Years of Service
11 Jere Miller
40 Years of Service
16 Jerry Riggs
45 Years of Service
1 George Mochizuki
April 22 – 28 was proclaimed by the Madera County Board of Supervisors as “Paid Call Firefighters Recognition Week.” Hopefully this recognition brings attention to the important job these folks do, and will inspire others who are so inclined to learn how they can join the ranks of those who respond when the call comes in.