Volunteer firefighters keep Rough and Ready safe for 50 years | TheUnion.com

Volunteer firefighters keep Rough and Ready safe for 50 years

Tuesday marked the eighth day since the Lobo Fire broke out, burning more than 800 acres and destroying multiple homes in the Rough and Ready area.

Through it all, Rough and Ready's all-volunteer fire department — just a dozen firefighters strong — stayed open 24-7.

So it's no surprise that the department has been scrambling to finish preparations for its 50th anniversary party, scheduled for Saturday.

The fire station — far from being show-ready — instead has been turned into a giant warehouse for a mountain of donated food, clothing, toiletries and household goods. Volunteers, at least one of whom lost his own house, have been sifting through the offerings. Tuesday, they loaded a truck full to go to Women of Worth for distribution to fire victims elsewhere.

"It's been pretty hectic," acknowledged Capt. Tim Pettee. "Our engine and tender were on the initial attack and the station's been open ever since, as an incident command post, for staging, supplies and donations."

Pettee said he got into the station at 3:30 a.m. Monday, and has been there day and night, keeping it up and organized.

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"It's been an interesting run here," he said.

As soon as the all-volunteer department announced it would serve as a drop-off point for donations, they have been flooding in, not just from locals, but also from Cool, Reno, Santa Cruz and the Bay Area, Pettee said.

"I had one gentleman drop off 35 $50 gift cards to donate to residents," he said. "I'm very proud of our community, the way we've come together. It's astonishing, the generosity."

It has been particularly gratifying to see displaced fire victims come in for needed goods and watch their eyes light up, Pettee said.

"I have a lot of cash donations too, that I'm going to turn into prepaid cards for fuel or whatever people need to get their normal lives back," he said. "I've been evacuated before, so I know it first-hand — it's tough, the uncertainty of things."

Like Pettee, Capt. Matt Wright called the community support "phenomenal," adding, "It's great to see the humanity of people coming together."

Operating at times on just a couple of hours of sleep this week — one short stint involved "passing out against a tree" — Wright is still pulling together the display for the department's celebration on Saturday.

"I've gone through our historical archives, pulled photos and newspaper clippings," he said. "I also have some of our older gear to display."

Wright has become the de facto historian for the department, taking it upon himself to create a timeline mural on a long, blank hallway at the station.

"It's a work in progress," he said.

Rough and Ready's fire department got its start as a fire company; it became an official district in 1967. Many former volunteers have been invited to the 50th anniversary and Wright hopes some of the older firefighters will stop by to reminisce. The wife of one of the original six volunteers will be traveling back to Rough and Ready from Arizona, he said.

Along with the display of gear, Wright is showing the cost of, say, a nozzle ($600), to raise awareness of what it takes to run a volunteer department. To equip someone with their turnout gear runs about $10,000, he said. This summer, the department took delivery of a $368,000 wildland engine — it was the third or fourth engine out on the Lobo Fire, Wright said proudly.

Pettee said the celebration is a chance for people to come over and take a look at the working of the department.

"We're just letting the community know we're here for them," he said. "Our job is to make sure the people in our community are safe."

The celebration will be at the fire station on Rough and Ready Highway, and the open house will include touring the station and viewing the new rescue squad and wildland fire engines.

A spaghetti dinner will be followed by a presentation honoring past and present fire personnel and auxiliary members. Admission is free and donations are welcome.

Hu Behzad, a body worker who owns Wellness Solutions, volunteered along with an acupuncturist, another certified massage therapist and two chiropractors at the station Monday and plans to offer soft tissue work at Saturday's open house.

"We'd like to work on first responders, volunteers and people who lost their homes," he said. "We want people to take advantage. This is such a sweet community."

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email lkellar@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.

Rough & Ready Fire celebrates 50 years

What: Open house, spaghetti feed;

When: Open house, 2-5 p.m. Saturday; spaghetti feed, 5-8 p.m. Saturday

Where: Rough & Ready Fire Station, 14506 Rough and Ready Highway

During the open house session a group of bodyworkers will offer free sessions to those who have been affected by the fires. Attendees are encouraged to get some bodywork to help relieve stress. Firefighters, fire victims, volunteers, first responders, animal evacuation crew and others who have been affected are welcome.

For info: 530-432-1140

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