MADERA COUNTY — The firefighters at Madera County’s Station 19 are not only dedicated first responders, they have also volunteered hundreds of hours to raising money to upgrade the County’s firefighting equipment.
On Tuesday, Oct. 4 at 9 a.m., personnel from Station 19, located in the Bonadelle Ranchos, will present a check to the Board of Supervisors for $40,000.
This impressive donation is the result of hard work by the Station 19 Auxiliary and firefighters, raised as a contribution toward the purchase of much-needed new water tenders. The balance of the $540,000 purchase price for the two new units is coming from unanticipated County revenue.
Station 19 Captain Pete Flores says he and his firefighters couldn’t do this without the support of their Fire Department Auxiliary members, who work diligently obtaining items for the annual fundraising auction to help provide some of the necessary equipment the station requires. This donation is the culmination of two years’ efforts.
The Auxiliary coordinator is Captain Flores’s wife, Leslie, who is a nurse working 12-hour days who still dedicates herself to help support the station. This is indicative of many volunteers working within Auxiliaries or as PCFs (Paid Call Firefighters) at this and other stations in Madera County.
When Capt. Flores stepped into the top job at Station 19 five years ago, his objective quickly became bringing the station up to the standards seen in other counties. One focus was their aging water tender.
The current water tender in use at Station 19 is a 1993, 27-ton basic water truck with no firefighting equipment; the type used on construction sites. It is one of nine of this type of water tender now in service throughout the county.
Although it holds 4,000 gallons, the 23-year-old water tender only has a psi of 50 lbs., which is not enough to fight fire. The truck has a 10-gear transmission requiring a class B commercial license to drive. There are currently only two PCFs on staff at Station 19 who have a class B, making this truck only available to respond if those two drivers are not working their main jobs, or are able to leave work.
The current truck contains no baffles to keep water from sloshing while in motion, which poses another safety concern and limits who may operate a water tender. It also does not carry the necessary oxygen tanks for firefighters battling a structure fire, forcing them to rely upon another station and a standard pickup truck to transport the air tanks as needed, and to wait for replenishment to continue fighting a fire.
With new hybrid-automatic tactical water tenders, anyone with a Class C license with a Firefighter Endorsement can operate the unit, says Capt. Flores. They are fully functional and come equipped to handle both structure or wildland situations as well as carrying the necessary medical equipment to respond to motor vehicle accidents and medical aids.
Cal Fire Battalion Chief Matt Watson, who serves as Administrative Battalion Chief for Madera County Fire, says the hybrids can carry 2,000 gallons of water and have a 1,000 gpm pump. They also come equipped with a 2,000 gallon “fold a tank” that can be left at a scene while the water tender returns for refills, making this a fast turnaround that can not only resupply engines, but can be used to aggressively fight fire.
Madera County is looking at the purchase of two hybrid water tenders, the second of which will be housed at Oakhurst Station 12.
“We are really happy this money has materialized,” says Capt. Flores, “and it is due to the hard work of our auxiliary and the generous donations of the community, including many business owners from the Oakhurst and Coarsegold area.”
Capt. Flores goes on to say that all of this wouldn’t be possible without the dedicated support of Chief Matt Watson.
“He offers 110 percent support to the PCFs and this community. Most of our projects wouldn’t be completed without him. We are very fortunate.”