Volunteer firefighters provide crucial emergency response to save lives, protect property, and safeguard local resources. With 17 departments recruiting across Plumas County, there’s an opportunity for everyone to join!
With the exception of a few paid positions, all fire department members in the county are volunteers who step up to donate their time and expertise to protect their neighbors and communities. Often, the volunteer response is the first, and possibly only, response that will arrive when a resident calls 911! However, local volunteer fire departments are struggling with aging members and decreased volunteerism; unfortunately, this is part of a nationwide trend.
In an article in Firehouse magazine, editor and firefighter Billy Goldfeder says that the volunteer fire/medical/rescue service in North America is “in a major and measurable crisis,” describing “lonely and dangerous fire responses” in which few participate and response times are long.
Though Goldfeder suggests several ideas for rectifying this situation — including reorganizing fire protection districts and implementing different funding schemes — one way we can help right now is by reaching out to our local fire departments to volunteer.
My local fire department, Meadow Valley Fire Protection District, is down to six firefighters, according to Fire Chief Ron Heinbockel. In addition to fighting fires, the department also provides emergency medical response and rescue operations, both in Meadow Valley and other communities (through mutual aid agreements). Facilities and equipment must be maintained, and large-scale fundraisers keep the department viable. All those responsibilities are too much work for six people, no matter how dedicated they are.
In calling for volunteers, Heinbockel emphasized that there is a place for everyone interested in helping, no matter their characteristics or abilities. The only prerequisites are a good attitude and a willingness to learn, he said.
Volunteer fire departments do a lot more than put out fires; in fact, the vast majority of calls these days involve emergency medical response. However, volunteers may choose their roles: some choose to provide only fire response, others choose to provide only medical response, and some choose both.
And for those who are not able or willing to act in either of those capacities, many other roles are also available. Volunteers are also needed to provide support in the field, administrative and office support, engineering and mechanical services, fundraising and outreach. Positions are also available on governing boards to help direct and oversee fire departments.
For those who do wish to pursue firefighting or medical response roles, volunteer fire departments can provide valuable training. Once a volunteer establishes his or her commitment to a department and becomes a recognized member, the department can sponsor attendance at trainings and acquisition of certifications.
The Quincy Fire Academy, a regional training opportunity presented by the Quincy Fire Protection District, offers intensive, hands-on experience using the department’s training facility. Topics covered include live fire attack, use of self-contained breathing apparatus, auto extrication, hose lays, search and rescue, communications, and many more. This event is open to all fire personnel from Plumas, Lassen and Sierra counties; this year the training will be held on Saturdays from April 4 to May 9.
All firefighters must complete emergency medical responder (EMR) training, and they may also pursue emergency medical technician (EMT) training and driver training. Additional certifications may also be achieved.
Through agreements with the Office of Emergency Services and the U.S. Forest Service, volunteer fire departments sometimes deploy in a paid capacity, which can generate compensation for use of equipment and personnel time.
Do you feel inspired to help protect your community? Reach out to your local fire department! See the sidebar for contact information; some departments may also be available through Facebook.
Those interested in volunteering with the Meadow Valley department specifically are invited to attend a training meeting; meetings are held 7–9 p.m. the second and fourth Tuesday of every month at the firehouse, 6913 Bucks Lake Road.
For more information about Plumas County’s volunteer fire departments, visit the Plumas County Fire Chiefs Association website at plumasfirechiefs.org.
Ingrid Burke has been volunteering in Plumas County for the past decade; she moderates the Plumas County Volunteers Facebook page. Contact her at [email protected].
Plumas County fire departments
Beckwourth Fire Protection District: 832-1008, [email protected]
Chester Fire Department: 258-3456, chesterpud.org
Crescent Mills Fire Protection District: Chief Joe Kemp, 284-7454
Eastern Plumas Rural Fire Protection District (Delleker, Iron Horse, includes C Road):
Graeagle Fire Protection District: 836-1340, graeaglefire.org
Greenhorn Creek Volunteer Fire Department: 283-6450
Hamilton Branch Fire Protection District (also Prattville): 259-2306
Indian Valley Fire Department (Greenville, Taylorsville, Genesee): 284-7224
La Porte Fire Protection District: Chief Steve Burroughs, 675-2707, [email protected]
Long Valley Fire Department (Cromberg, Sloat): Steve Peters, (951) 377-1251, [email protected], longvalleycsd.specialdistrict.org
Meadow Valley Fire Department: 283-2620, Assistant Chief Warren Grandall, (530) 283-0478
Peninsula Fire Protection District: 259-2306
Plumas Eureka Fire Department: 836-0532
Quincy Fire Protection District: 283-0870
Sierra Valley Volunteer Fire Department (Chilcoot, Vinton, surrounding areas): 993-1111
West Almanor Fire Department (also serves Prattville-Almanor): 259-5112