It’s about 10:00 AM. It’s misty, chilly, and for most of the kids, too early to be up. After a quick briefing on the way, we pile into our cars and set off. A quick ten or fifteen minutes later, we have reached Banyon Fire Station.
We are greeted by Mr. Andy Parker. He leads us into the station and through a large garage of sorts into their kitchen. Here we meet the station’s captain, Mr. Roberts. He and Mr. Parker cheerfully explain that they are making a meal. Mr. Parker goes on to explain that at the station, they make 2 fresh meals every day. The fire trucks one might of see in front of a grocery store is because they are in fact shopping. To keep men healthy, food should be fresh. Men do not eat out and, conveniently enough, there is a workout room right next to the kitchen. As Mr. Parker explains fire safety and what would happen to us if they had a call at the station, an alarm sounds. The captain and Mr. Parker vanish out the door and we now meet Mr. Abel Castaneda, who explains he is only present today because there are firefighters testing to become engineers.
Just then, Mr. Parker and the captain return, explaining that they do not have to leave. They continue the tour from where they left off. All the men are trained as paramedics. They also work technical rescue. According to our guides, the station takes care of traffic accidents, fires, and medical emergencies. They leave when pipes break. They’ve actually pulled cats out of a tree. According to Mr. Parker, they’d even pulled an owl out of a tree. They took care of a bear wandering around in Etiwanda last year. My respect for these men grows as they explain the difficulties of their job. Being a firefighter is not for the faint of heart! The job is also rather time-consuming. Men dedicate a third of their lives to this job. A typical shift is 24 hr and men will work 4 shifts in a row; 24 hrs on, 24 hrs off. A usual work week will have 56 hrs on the time card. During the night, the men might be able to sleep. Back in the day, firefighters would take shifts. Now they can all sleep, thanks to a special alarm system.
Mr. Parker leads us out of the kitchen area and gives us a brief look at their sleeping quarters. Mr. Castaneda explains that the station he used to work had barracks. Due to the amount of land they had, the men were able to request regular rooms, with twin beds and a bathroom. We move past to the garage and are given a chance to look at their gear room, where open lockers contain their equipment for easy access. There are two fire engines still remaining, but, as Mr. Castaneda explains to us, the truck that just went out is a fire truck, not a fire engine. Fire trucks primarily carry water and some smaller equipment such as shovels and hoses. Firefighters must be able to detect where the fire is and know where their equipment is. In canyon, cliff, and trench rescues, they have a special vehicle to help. The engineer sits at the front with a headset. He has a backseat where he can store gear and in emergency situations, firefighters might ride.
On the fire engine, Mr. Castaneda shows us their air-fuel station. They strap these to their back and can refuel when necessary. “We look like the Rocketeer,” he laughs. He then shows us their main ladder. It can stretch up to 100 feet and lie at an almost complete vertical angle. He opens another door and shows us where they keep a basket to carry patients. A firefighter will help strap them in. In canyon and trench rescues, he might be lowered down by a helicopter. “We have to be incredibly fast,” Mr. Parker comments, when speaking of the transfer. They have extra equipment and hydraulics in the side of the fire engine. The system works at 5000 to 8000 lbs.
My fellow highschooler gets a chance to pick up a circular saw when opening a new cupboard. Inside there are chainsaws as well as the circular saws. These are used to get into the house. These chainsaws have special chains to cut through the roof of a house. Terra-cotta, wood, and other materials can be broken under the weight, pressure, and strength of these saws. In a drawer, they show us sledgehammers and large keys; crowbars and pryers. They have big scoop shovels, safety cones, and brooms. The amount of equipment is staggering. Mr. Castaneda shows us an orange box of medical equipment. This will be carried by the paramedics when they get to patients.
At the back of the engine, there is a compartment for extra ladders and wood blocks. The wood blocks, our guides explain, are used to lift heavy trucks in a traffic accident. They also have air bags and tarps to lift trucks. They have a mapping system for sewer lines and drainage system. This system is accessible for the firefighters at Chaffey. As we close the compartment and go around to the side, Mr. Parker points out a pole in the corner. “We had a rattlesnake over here,” he explains. According to the firefighters, they must deal with snake calls, being so close to the foothills. “So here we are a bunch of tough guys, not wanting to get near the thing!”
On the right side of the fire engine, there are many more compartments. One contains rope bags. Another has a station to refuel air bottles to rescue their own firefighters. According to them, firefighters have fallen on the job and must be rescued by their fellow firefighters. The kids goggle him, in awe at the dangers depicted. In a different cupboard, they have large lights. “In case we knock out the electrical in a house, these are to light up the place,” Mr. Castaneda explains. In the next compartment are tarps. These are to cover valuable objects in a house, such as china and computers. Underneath these, they have a vacuum underneath to pull water out of a house.
Now back at the front of the engine, we thank the firefighters. It’s been a wonderful, informative trip. We gather for a group picture, wearing “helmets” of red plastic and flashing our golden badges. The kids are proud and I am happy to have attended such a delightful trip. My respect for these fighters has increased tenfold. These men are such an important part of our community and they serve us faithfully. We should be grateful to them for all the hard work they do and the amazing services we’ve been paid.