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Stories from the valley

Local Superheroes

Contributed by Steve Beckley

We are all aware of the wildfires burning in Northern California and the amount of resources being used to help bring them under control. An important part of the team fighting the fires is volunteer members and equipment from many of the Sacramento Valley rural fire departments.

I live in Woodland and the base camp for firefighters involved in the County Fire is at the Yolo County Fairgrounds.  You will see fire trucks from throughout the valley parked with equipment from the rest of the state. Many of these fire fighting teams were on Lake County Pawnee Fire prior to this fire and may soon be headed another regional fire.

I visited with a team from Meridian Fire Department taking a break from 24 hours on the County Fire.  The team was made up of Nathan Hanks, a full-time fireman, and the 2 volunteers, Steve Chafee (who’s also an ag pilot) and Roberto Ortega.

Volunteer fire departments and the individuals who put the time in to provide fire protection and medical aid are a lifesaving resource to rural Sacramento Valley communities. Nearly 90 percent of the firefighters in Colusa County are volunteers and protect an area that is over 1,100 square miles   In my home town of Grimes, the Grand Island Station is part of the Sacramento River Fire Protection District in Colusa. It was originally founded in 1937 by 20 individuals, including my late father, Ralph Beckley. The original fire truck is being restored and there will be a plaque on it honoring these individuals.  Hearing the fire siren and seeing dad respond to the alarm was regular occurrence during my youth. His grandson, Mike Charter, carries on the family tradition as a volunteer member of the Williams Fire Department.

The Grand Island Station has 13 firefighters on its roster and 8 of them are also Emergency Medical Technicians.  The Sacramento River Fire District has about another 42 volunteers at its station in Colusa. The average volunteer firefighter at these stations spends over 100 hours a year in training to ensure they can provide the necessary services to their communities.

The next time you see a fire station in a small community remember the volunteer firefighters who give the time and risk their lives to provide the important services at all hours of the day to protect lives and property.  I hope you can join many of us from the valley on July 28 to help the Arbuckle Fire Department celebrate their 100th Anniversary as they have a parade, lunch and feature the California State Firefighters Association Horse Drawn Steamer.