Recently retired fire chief Tony Clarabut was honored — and slightly roasted — Saturday when he was presented with a Public Safety Commitment Award by the Nevada County Law Enforcement and Fire Protection Council at its annual Red Light Ball.
Nevada County Sheriff Keith Royal and Supervisor Hank Weston — who had been Clarabut’s boss at Cal Fire — took turns talking about Clarabut’s career.
Clarabut retired from a 35-year career with Cal Fire in 2005, the majority of which was spent in Nevada County. He subsequently served as fire chief for the city of Ukiah. He was then asked to head the department in Grass Valley, where he served for five years. In addition to his fire suppression responsibilities, he co-wrote Nevada County’s first fire protection development standards, was instrumental in the formation of the Nevada County Fire Safe Council and chaired the committee that prepared Nevada County’s initial fire plan.
He told The Union that one of his biggest accomplishments was the growth of the Higgins Fire District. As chief officer through Cal Fire, he took the small organization of volunteers and grew it to an agency with three stations.
Weston poked gentle fun at Clarabut before noting that he did a “great job” of keeping the Higgins Area Fire Protection District together.
“Tony has given his whole career to the fire service,” Weston said. “He worked hard to make sure Nevada County (fire services) are well thought of and respected.”
Clarabut, who received a standing ovation, said, “A lot of good people who have done gallant things have come before me.”
Clarabut pointed to the level of interagency and community support in the county, saying the work the council puts in to support law enforcement and fire protection agencies is “boundless.”
The Red Light Ball is one of the council’s major fundraisers. Over the years, it has raised an estimated $700,000 to purchase much-needed police and firefighting equipment.
To contact City Editor Liz Kellar, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4229.