Tony Clarabut has a passion for fighting fires
Tony Clarabut, CDF Unit Chief for Nevada, Placer and Yuba counties for the past two years, discovered his passion for fire fighting at 17, when he took a summer job fighting fires. He got so excited that he changed from a math major to a forestry major in college.
33 years later, he still loves the work. On the front lines during the ’49er’ fire in 88, then a battalion chief, he was at the fire when it was only three acres. That wind driven fire, which became 33,500 acres before it was contained, burned for ten days and it took weeks to put out the hot spots.
Clarabut, who is married with two teenagers, talks about what he enjoys most about his profession: “The gratification you get working together as a team and doing something positive,” he said.
Clarabut describes the CDF as a ‘full-time, all-risk fire department’. “In addition to fighting fires, we do paramedic calls for medical aid or traffic accidents and respond to hazardous materials spills,” he said.
As the area grows and more homes are built, the firefighter’s options are reduced. They have to focus on saving the homes first, versus stopping the fire.
Challenges he sees for the coming year? “The State Deficit, budget cuts, we’ll lose some look outs. The fire problem doesn’t change when the funding changes. We have to find a way to bridge the gap of lost resources,” he said.
“We’re not getting as many volunteers, so we have to rely more on paid firefighters,” he said. “We have to call in more resources and fires can get bigger in the time it takes for back-up resources to get there.”
“All the Nevada County fire services, city and county, CDF and Forest Service, are dispatched from one point, up at the airport. That brings us all together. When a call goes out, the closest resources go. We operate like one organization and can cross communicate on radios. It is a good system, he said.”
“Nevada County is blessed with a group of public safety providers who work well together and are quick to help each other out,” Clarabut said.
“We trust each other and we’ve all figured out that our combined efforts serve the public better than our separate efforts,” he said.
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