Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Playing with fire, bound to get burned | TheUnion.com

Hollie Grimaldi Flores: Playing with fire, bound to get burned

Hollie Grimaldi Flores
Laura Mahaffy/lmahaffy@theunion.com | The Union

When I was young, my mother dated and later married a man who was a volunteer firefighter and for a time, the fire marshal in the town where I grew up.

Many, many times we would be on our way home when he would get called to a fire. What that meant for me was hours sitting in the car watching the fire burn and watching firefighters battle the blaze. More than once, I woke up in the back seat, having fallen asleep sometime in the night while emergency personnel conquered the flames, sometimes rescuing people and pets in the process, sometimes losing the battle and mopping up after a complete, tragic loss.

There were other nights when the volunteers would be at our home socializing (it seems a lot of card playing went on at our place) when the tones would sound from the scanner and the men would all jump into action, grabbing their gear from their vehicles and heading to the local fire station.

In our house, no matter what was happening, when the tone went off, the firefighter stopped what he was doing and answered the call. It came with a price — to family time, in personal expense and a general toll from the work itself. My stepfather failed in a lot of areas but I should give him credit for his dedication and service as a volunteer fireman.

What I realize is that in every case, whether sitting in the car waiting, left at home when the tone sounded, or watching a hose meet, my role was always to “stay out of the way and watch.”

It has only been in recent years this revelation helped me to understand why I am least likely to run toward an accident and highly unlikely to be of much assistance in a true emergency. For years, I was taught to stand back and let others do the work. Although I am well versed in dialing (and I do mean dialing) 911.

As a result, I revere those in public safety and cannot ever express my gratitude for those willing to run into burning buildings and toward overturned vehicles. I admire those who are quick to react and willing to save lives, even when at risk of their own.

I have profound respect to those who step up and decide their calling is to don heavy clothing and equipment to fight the subsequent fires that breakout in the region. Fighting fire is an exhausting and dangerous vocation. I applaud and appreciate all who are up to the task.

So, it was a little heartbreaking to hear of the recent theft of gear and damage to the vehicle of a local volunteer.

According to the press release, posted on Yubanet.com out of North San Juan, which reads in part “… one of our battalion chiefs found his truck’s back and side windows broken and his NSJ gear stolen. This gear included his wildland pants and helmet, his structure turnout jacket, his web gear and fire shelter. These items are all obviously crucial for any firefighter to do his or her job and are very expensive to replace. A sheriff’s report has been filed. We want this gear back, no questions asked. We’re asking our community to please keep your eyes out for this stolen gear. Hopefully it will find its way back to our station.”

This past winter was long and wet. The result: lush vegetation. Now it is hot and it is dry. Day after day of unusually elevated temperatures means all that lush vegetation is drying out very quickly. This makes kiln dry conditions which creates heavy fuels, meaning we are at a higher than normal risk for disaster.

Many times over the years, when speaking with personnel from the California Fire Service, I would be told, “it’s not a matter of if California will burn, but when.” In the event of human error or mother nature landing a lightning strike, the state is ripe for a long and arduous fire season.

In recent times, we have been incredibly fortunate and have our local fire and emergency personnel to thank for quickly getting a handle on some situations that could easily have turned into much bigger events.

Organizations like the Nevada County Law Enforcement and Fire Protection Council raise money solely to provide our public safety personnel with the tools they need to do their job well. We owe them a great debt. It is a shame money will now need to be spent replacing perfectly good gear.

I cannot understand the thinking behind stealing the tools needed to save lives. The word that comes to mind is, karma. One can only hope.

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire. She can be reached at holliesallwrite@gmail.com.

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