COARSEGOLD – The volunteer firefighters at Station 10 in Yosemite Lakes Park honored their own and pinned four new recruits at a ceremony and open house on Saturday, Oct. 18.
New firefighters Christian Cramblett, Alex Long, Jared Smith and Joey Hoetker have completed their training and join the ranks at Station 10, increasing the number of volunteers to 14, ready to respond for fires, accidents and medical aids.
Before the ceremonies got underway, SkyLife One Air Ambulance landed next to the station house, and the helicopter was available for everyone check out up-close, and talk to the emergency personnel who man the ship.
There was also a wide array of fire service equipment at the station, essential for battling wildland fires, including engines, a bulldozer and a water tender. Smokey Bear was a big hit with the kids, who collected hugs and posed for pictures.
On hand to honor the new recruits were Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, Undersheriff Michael Salvador, District Attorney Michael Keitz and Cal Fire Battalion Chief Chris Christopherson.
After a reading of the Firefighter’s Prayer*, delivered by Lt. Brian Donaghy, the new recruits were addressed by Frank Bigelow, State Assemblyman and volunteer firefighter for nearly 40 years in O’Neals.
Bigelow recalled his early days in the fire service and how the volunteers had to raise their own money to buy equipment and gear, and for their own training.
“We were individual ragtag fire departments sprinkled throughout Madera County,” said Bigelow. “But our PCFs traveled throughout the state to help others in need. Back then, YLP was a ranch. Now you have a complete full roster of personnel on the front lines.”
Undersheriff Mike Salvador told the new firefighters that this may be the most important, most influential step in their lives.
“From this day forward, you will all be referred to as brothers,” said Salvador. “And always remember, you are your brothers’ keeper.”
He encouraged the new recruits to always remain professional, passionate, dedicated to the job, and proud of their accomplishments.
District Attorney Michael Keitz commended the volunteers for their service, and told them he knows from personal experience the satisfaction that comes with volunteering.
The new recruits were then addressed by Cal Fire Battalion Chief Chris Christopherson, who urged them never to forget why they signed up for this job.
“Remember what drives you when the call goes out,” he said, “and never forget that you represent the fire department, the community and the fire service, whether in uniform or out. Your actions reflect on the profession.
“You will be dealing with people in their worst hour, whether it’s a house fire or a vehicle accident. Always be respectful of those you come in contact with, and treat them with integrity, compassion and understanding.
“People don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care. Always strive for perfection, but settle for excellence.”
Station 10 Captain Chris Haynes then announced that the honor of Firefighter of the Year would go to Engineer Gus Lavell, and EMT Sean Kelly was presented with the Distinguished Service Award.
Haynes also announced that he would not be seeking the Station Captain position this year, leaving the slot open for another worthy candidate after serving as Captain for three years.
“Relinquishing my tenure as captain allows others to pursue and achieve their full potential, as I did, continuing the tradition of service to one’s community,” says Haynes, who is a full-time paramedic at Sierra Ambulance.
“I’m not leaving Station 10. I will just serve in a different position with different responsibilities. If someone has as much enthusiasm for the job as I do, then they should be given a chance to make their mark. It’s really about what’s best for the station, not the individual.”
Haynes will continue to serve as a lieutenant, medical training officer, marketing director, public information officer and treasurer. The top spot will be filled at their regular meeting on the first Thursday in November.
Everyone is encouraged to support their local volunteer fire department, whether through monetary donations or by giving of time and energy. These Paid Call Firefighters are the backbone of emergency services in every community.
For those who wish to participate, The Ladies of the Lakes (LOL) and the Station 10 Fire Department Auxiliary are two organizations that support the YLP station. Kathy Kunz from LOL says at the Rigatoni Dinner last month at the YLP Clubhouse, they raised over $4,000 for the support of Station 10 firefighters, providing much needed funds for equipment, supplies and training.
“Firefighters define courage,” says Captain Haynes. “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.”
*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.
(Pictured – Front: Jared Smith, Christian Cramblett, Chris Haynes, Alex Long and Joey Hoetker. Back: Gus Lavell, Erik Lawson, Brian Donaghy, Randy Myers and Sean Kelly)