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Fire captains to receive pay

After more than 150 years, the Grass Valley Fire Department began paying its firefighters in 1994. Now the department has expanded its pool of paid employees to include higher ranks.

Recently, two firefighters were promoted to the rank of captain, becoming the first paid nonadministrative captains in the department’s history.

Engineers Loray Johnston and Mark Buttron had to pass several tests to get the promotion and the raise that went along with it.



“I love my job,” Johnston said. “I hope to share that with new, upcoming firefighters.”

Captains are shift supervisors in charge of everyday activities, such as training, responding to calls and serving as incident commanders on calls.




The captain rank is one step above engineer, two steps above firefighter and two steps below fire chief.

“Loray was one of the first paid firefighters here,” Fire Chief Hank Weston said. “She’s got a good breadth of experience. She knows the city; she’s a very confident individual.”

Johnston, 32, has 13 years of firefighting experience.

Two weeks out of high school in 1989, she was hired by a hand crew and built barricades and dug ditches around wild-land fires. After one year of that, she was hired by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

She has been with the Grass Valley Fire Department since 1994.

“I enjoy this community,” she said. “This is the community I want to serve.”

Johnston makes purchases of equipment, gear and uniforms for the department and said her experience in accounting will benefit the agency.

“With what I do there, I try to save the department money,” she said.

She said she wanted the position because of the opportunity to become more involved within the department and in city politics. She said she eventually wants to become a battalion chief and then chief of the department.

While this is Johnston’s first time in a supervisory position, Buttron, 34, has been a captain before. He took a step down when he transferred to the department in 2002 from the City of Coalinga Fire Department, where he was a captain for nine years.

He has 14 years of experience in all.

“The draw to Grass Valley was the department itself,” he said. “It’s a growing area. It’s a very appealing area to work.

“I like being a supervisor,” he said. “It’s a challenging and rewarding job.”

To get the promotion, Johnston and Buttron had to score higher than 70 percent on a 119-question written test dealing with fire prevention, coordination, incident command and use of the English language.

After passing that, they had to take another test in front of a panel and then an oral examination in front of Weston.

“It’s our job to mentor (firefighters) and bring them along,” Weston said.

The department currently has 14 paid firefighters and 18 volunteers. The promotions were just one step in keeping up with the city’s growth, fire officials said.

“There will be more changes from here on out,” Johnston said.


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