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Nevada City welcomes new firefighters

New Nevada City Firefighter Eric Silvas (left) with Fire Chief Sam Goodspeed at Station 54.
IVAN NATIVIDAD/INATIVIDAD@THEUNION.COM |

Three weeks into their tenure as new Nevada City firefighters, Sierra College Fire Academy graduates Eric Silvas and Michael Chau have been welcomed with open arms for bringing the city’s only Station 54 back to the full-time staffing that is much needed for a high-risk fire season.

“It’s great, and it’s (been) a long time coming, bringing our staffing up to minimum levels,” Fire Chief Sam Goodspeed said. “It strengthens our relationships for our partners, and makes for a better working environment.”

After the Nevada County Consolidated Fire board pulled three of the six firefighters from Station 54 in late April, Nevada City reduced staffing at the station.



According to city documents, since the brownout schedule had been implemented, the city averaged one call for service on each of the brownout days the station had been closed.

In June, the Nevada City Council unanimously approved a motion to hire two firefighter positions for the fire station, effectively ending the rotating brownout schedule.




The resolution authorized city staff to use $100,000 in Measure L funds to hire the additional firefighter positions through June 30, 2016, bringing the station back to a full staff as of July 20.

The city will postpone a rehabilitation project to the Pioneer Park swimming pool in order to fund the positions.

“Reaction from the JOA has been positive,” Goodspeed said. “We’ve gotten support from Consolidated and Grass Valley as we went through this transitional period and we’re thankful for that. This is a short-term solution having these guys on for a year. It’s a step in the right direction and we hope to keep it going with the community’s support.”

City staff has also applied for a federal grant that would fund the station full-time for up to 24 months, and will receive a decision by Sept. 30.

Long-term funding for the station would come from a proposed June 2016 election measure that would increase city sales tax by a quarter of a percent.

According to City Manager Mark Prestwich, the city will get started on crafting an ordinance in September, which would need to be approved publicly by the city council. The city would have till January 2016 to approve an ordinance to have it ready for the June 2016 election.

If the measure is approved by voters, Silvas and Chau would qualify for possible permanent employment with the station.

Originally from Sacramento, Silvas, 28, previously worked in the wine industry as a communications specialist, and decided to switch career fields after feeling a lack of purpose.

Growing up with a father who worked as a medic for the Los Angeles City Fire Department, and a mother who served as a registered nurse, Silvas said he began looking into a career that took him “back to my roots.”

“I knew that I wanted to do something that made me happy going to work every day,” Silvas said. “Doing my internship with Consolidated and going through the academy and getting emergency medical training, it really instilled being able to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Chau, 22, was born and raised in Vacaville, though his father immigrated to the country from Vietnam to start a construction business Chau says he has worked for since the age of 14.

Chau said he originally wanted to be a flight medic, but after taking a firefighting class and going on a fire engine ride-along after graduating high school, his career interests shifted.

He received an associate’s degree in fire technology from Lake Tahoe Community College in 2013, and then joined the Sierra College Fire Academy.

“I started going down the fire service route and just fell in love with it,” he said. “It’s a good service to actually get out there and help some people. I like to serve the community, and I like interacting with people.”

After serving a one-year internship with Consolidated Fire, both Silvas and Chau have experience working with the local area. Chau says he enjoys Nevada City’s rural hometown atmosphere.

“It has a beautiful downtown with older construction so you feel like you have a sense of history here,” he said.

Silvas added, “You get to know people on a more personal level. You get to work and see the community, you get to see people on a first-name basis, you don’t feel like just a number, you feel more part of the community.”

To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email inatividad@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.


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