Department Looks for Fire Corps Members

Monday, 16 August 2010

Fire volunteers help fill department's gaps

By Jesse B. Gill, Redlands Daily Facts

The Fire Department has a small contingent of dedicated volunteers and Fire Chief Jeff Frazier is looking for more.

The Fire Corps is nothing new. Volunteers have helped the Fire Department for more than 20 years, Frazier said. He is in the process of growing the Fire Corps by finding more volunteers to help the Fire Department.

"They do fire watch and all kinds of different things for us," Frazier said.

The Fire Corps now stands at 27 members and Frazier is looking for more.

He issued a news release looking for volunteers to serve as logistics aides, assistant public information officers, weed and brush inspectors, administrative assistants, and fire historians.

Most of the city's fire volunteers help the department by patrolling at-risk areas for signs of brush fires.

Yucaipa resident Phil Sedgwick is the Fire Corps' volunteer coordinator. If the weather is dry, hot and windy, Sedgwick will patrol the city's canyon areas looking for smoke.

Sedgwick, 67, spotted last year's Helen Fire while on patrol near Live Oak Canyon. He said he - and other Fire Corps members - spend hours patrolling Redlands' wildland areas. If they see smoke, they call it in.

"We patrol the areas that we think are more susceptible to wildland fire," Sedgwick said.

Fire Corps members distribute literature to homeowners who live near those areas, letting them know to remove the weeds and dry brush within 100 feet around the home.

"I've dropped a door hanger on every home in the Live Oak Canyon and San Timoteo Canyon areas that I could get to," he said.

Frazier said he plans to use volunteers to perform brush and weed abatement inspections in the future. If the volunteers prove effective, Frazier said he may use volunteers to help conduct some of the department's business inspections.

"Our fire crews have a high fire inspection load," Frazier said. "I'm hoping to have these volunteers handle about every other inspection."

Frazier said he does not plan to use volunteers to replace firefighters as fire inspectors, only to help lighten the load.

Sedgwick is also an amateur radio operator. In the event of a major emergency that could knock out the communication system that the city's police officers and firefighters use, Sedgwick - among other Fire Corps members - would then establish a communication system using HAM radio equipment.

"The city's radio system will fail in the event of a significant earthquake," Sedgwick said. "If that happens, we would provide emergency communications for the operational area."

The Fire Corps includes a member who does office work for the department. The Fire Department lost two administrative assistants during a round of budget-cutting layoffs in July, making the need for office help more acute.

The Fire Corps includes a member that focuses on the department's spiritual needs.

Steven Hay, pastor at Redlands Church of Christ, began volunteering as the department's chaplain in November. He has more than 20 years experience as a chaplain for law enforcement and fire agencies.

Hay provides spiritual support to the Fire Department's employees who need it. He also provides support to residents whose homes have been damaged in fires.

Hay said he became a Fire Corps member as a way to give back to the community he's lived in for 14 years.

"I have a skill and a talent in this area," Hay said. "I'm glad to be able to help people who are going through difficult times."

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