Avalon Fire and Rescue stands ready

By Jody Conrad | Special to the Press Gazette

Most people sleep better at night knowing that others are waiting to respond in case they need them.  At Avalon Fire and Rescue, the trained responders stand ready.

Lt. Doug Thornton said the process of readiness, which applies to all fire and rescue departments: “In addition to over 600 hours of training to receive a Fire 2 status, we train weekly here at Avalon,” Thornton said. “Each week we’ll set up drills, which might involve water rescue, haz-mat situations, or commercial, residential, or medical emergencies.” 

Luke Kelly and James Stephenson show off the department's newest rescue boat.

Thornton added that part of their job is to have a pre-fire plan with local businesses, where they familiarize themselves with each location and identify hazards they would encounter in each place.

“We also do at least 48 hours of continued education each year, covering a realm of medical and non-medical issues,” said Firefighter James Stephenson.

His crew partner Luke Kelly added “There’s always new studies and techniques to familiarize ourselves with.”

So what does it take to become a firefighter? Stephenson discussed the extensive process.

“I’m third generation, and I started as a junior volunteer at 16," Stephenson said. "I had to complete the Fire 1 level, which includes 206 hours of fire and Emergency Medical Responder training.

"The Beast" is the oldest operational fire apparatus in Santa Rosa County.

“I completed the volunteer level just to try it out and see if I liked it, and once I decided it was what I wanted to do, I went on to complete Fire 2, which is an additional 400 hours  of training.”

What do firefighters do when they are not responding to calls?

“There’s always something that needs to be done," Thornton said. "We take care of all of the maintenance here like you would at your own home, plus we practice, inspect hoses, keep the vehicles ready, etc. There’s not really much downtime here.”

Besides being always ready to respond to emergencies, there are fun times at the firehouse as well.

“We’re like family here,” Thornton said. “We go to schools, we provide teddy bears and toy helmets to kids that we respond to in emergencies, and at Christmastime we either drive Santa around the community or invite kids to the firehouse to see Santa and get some goodies.”

With folks like these ready to respond to our emergencies, we can all rest easier both day and night.