FVFD appoints chief officers, purchases new response vehicle

Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer

Beacon Correspondent

The Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department purchased a new command vehicle and promoted staff. The department has a vehicle replacement schedule and a consistent chief staff to run the volunteer department.

The department has a weekly rotation set up between three chiefs for coverage of the district for both emergency response and service calls for assistance such as smoke checks, CO monitor alarms, and such calls.

The assignment for the week rotation means that they will be available 24/7 as the primary response chief. That doesn't simply mean they show up. "Command also involves assessment of the emergency scene, developing a plan of action often in a matter of seconds, and assigning in-coming crews to the tasks necessary to carry out the plan," said FVFD Chief Lon Winburn.

Although the 50 crew of volunteer firefighters have gone through extensive training that continues throughout their career it is the quick and expertise command that puts all their training into action.

"Normally the first in chief will assume command of the incident," Winburn said, "which may be as simple as directing a single engine company on a minor incident to as complicated as assigning multiple engine companies to varied tasks, arranging for mutual aid response, traffic control, staging of apparatus and personnel, re-hab for firefighters, and the list goes on."

Ted Silva was promoted to the position of 2nd assistant fire chief on July 1. Silva joined the department in May of 1988 as a firefighter with Company 1.

"Through his dedication and commitment, Ted promoted through the company ranks to the position of captain in 2004 where he served for three years prior to promoting to the Department Safety Officer position in 2007," Winburn said.

Silva's new duties will include overseeing the departments' equipment and apparatus at all three fire stations as well as the command duties associated with the assistant chief position, Winburn said.

Jim Hinrichs was promoted to safety officer. Hinrichs is not new to the position as he held it from 2004 to 2005. Hinrichs was originally part of the Scotia Volunteer Fire Department and transferred to Fortuna in 1999.

"Jim has been a member of both Company 2 and Company 3 and up until the current promotion to safety officer, served as both lieutenant and engineer," Winburn said.

As safety officer, Hinrichs' duties will include overseeing the departments' compliance with state and federal regulations, conducting safety meetings and the assuring the following of safety procedures by all personal during training and fire/rescue calls.

Rus Brown holds the other assistant chief role, rounding out the command staff under Winburn. Brown is the 1st assistant chief responsible for department training and a large part of department operations.

"Rus has held the position since 2005 and has brought a new level of training to the department through knowledge, experience and expertise as an instructor," said Winburn.

Brown is responsible for the coordination of the Eel River Valley Fire Academy which is attended by new firefighters from Scotia, Rio Dell, Ferndale, Loleta, Fortuna, Carlotta and Bridgeville Fire Departments.

Chief Winburn takes pride in the efforts of his crew to keep themselves in the public eye and continued education out in the public. It is very important to Winburn that they continue to reach out to the youth through programs and events such as the Firemen's games provided by the department at the recent July 3 Fortuna Fireworks show.

The continued contact by FVFD helps to provide a level of comfort to the community and its youth when they are called in for an emergency. "Children that are exposed and introduced to firemen in uniform with hands on time with our gear are less likely to hide in an emergency situation," said Winburn. Familiarity also provides comfort to those in emergency situations.

Chief Winburn is responsible for overall fire department operations, personnel and district budget. Part of that responsibility is making sure the command staff has updated functioning command vehicles.

There is a vehicle replacement schedule in place that has command vehicles scheduled for replacement every 10 years and apparatus replacement every 30 years.

That schedule initiated the replacement of Winburn's response vehicle and replacing it with a 2013 Ford Expedition equipped with the latest in LED lighting, additional communications equipment, and mobile data equipment for enhancement of command capabilities on fire/rescue calls.

Winburn explains the need for having a plan saying, "The plan helps us not get caught with excessive repair issues and a fleet that is outdated. For the apparatus, it is also a NFPA standard to have a 30-year replacement plan in place."

The previous vehicle Winburn was driving was a 2003 model with 110,000 miles on it. The vehicle is still being used by the department as a main station medical response unit to keep from having to run the larger rescue unit which carries extensive rescue equipment.

"The pickup will be more cost effective and will also serve as a response vehicle for the Fortuna Squad of the Eel River Valley Technical Rescue Team," Winburn said. "Our budget is set up to allow for an equipment and apparatus allocation each year so that we are able to cover the replacement vehicles out of that fund. We do not finance any of it."

Currently the allocation fund runs through 2039

"It is reviewed every few years to keep it updated so that we always have close to a 30 year plan in place," Winburn said.

The next apparatus replacement will be a new engine downtown in 2015-2016 to replace the 1986 Beck which currently serves as the 2nd engine out of the downtown station.

The company still runs a 2001 pick-up due to its very low mileage at less than 50,000 and will replace it in the next couple years. The third response vehicle is a 2008 model year.

"The command staff as well as all members of the Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department are proud to continue on with the long history of community service to the residents of the city of Fortuna and outlying communities with-in the fire district and will continue to be, as our motto says, 'always ready -- always willing'," Winburn said.

Photo by Heather Nyberg-Schlotzhauer/Beacon

Pictured from left: Fortuna Volunteer Fire Department Chief Lon Winburn, 1st Assistant Chief Rus Brown, 2nd Assistant Fire Chief Ted Silva and Safety Officer Jim Hinrichs stand before the newly acquired 2013 Ford Expedition equipped with the latest LED lighting, additional communications equipment, and mobile data equipment to enhance the command capabilities on fire/rescue calls.