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Focus On Prevention
Fire Season Winds Down For Local Department
1023 Fire 2
Students were able to climb up into a fire engine for an up close and personal look at the rig during their Thursday visit to the firehouse. Marg Jackson/The Times

Visits to school sites, tours coming in to the firehouse … Fire Prevention Week is always hectic for Escalon firefighters, so they are counting their blessings that fire season is nearing its end.

Crews have been busy over the past couple of weeks with the public relations portion of Fire Prevention, helping youngsters learn the ‘Stop, Drop and Roll’ lesson, outlining the need for a family safety plan in case of fire and stressing the use of smoke detectors.

Also, firefighters locally are answering their calls donned in pink shirts, honoring Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

In all of this, fire officials said they can almost close the books on the 2013 summer fire season.

“Locally we did have a couple of river bottom fires and they were significant, mainly because of their location and the difficulty in getting to them,” Escalon Consolidated Fire Protection District Chief Rick Mello explained. “Aside from that, and the large vegetation fire that burned in the lower part of Barton Ranch on July 29 and 30, it was fairly quiet.”

Battalion Chief Terry Pinheiro served on a strike team and was the leader on a crew that went to the Morgan Fire in Contra Costa County and Escalon also had three firefighters serving with CalFire.

“Terry’s was maybe a three-day assignment,” said Mello. “Those working for CalFire were Michael Franzi, Joe Collins and Travis Bonds, all did seasonal work for CDF and are in the process of being released.”

Franzi is a reserve with the Escalon Fire Department, Collins and Bond are volunteers.

“The way CalFire works their shifts, they work threes and fours,” explained Battalion Chief Joe Pelot, Escalon Fire’s operations and maintenance chief. “They are on for three days, off for four and as long as there are no major incidents, they go for three days, then come home.”

That meant that the trio was sometimes available to work locally.

“When they had free time they would come in and run calls for us,” Pelot said.

By far, the busiest of the three was Collins.

“Joe Collins was on the Rim Fire (Tuolumne County), he was stuck up there for three weeks straight, couldn’t leave and he was on duty the whole time,” said Pelot.

Mello said locally, the fire season was very slow through the summer and though it still is technically in effect, the cooling temperatures and first sustained rainfall should signal its end soon.

“Vegetation is still relatively dry and people need to be smart,” Mello said. “There is still the potential for a fire.”

While the department gets its personnel back from CalFire, Pelot said they are also continuing with doing some shifting of firefighters to cover all their bases.

From July 1 and continuing through Oct. 31, Pelot said active reserves and volunteers have been brought in on two of the three shifts so that each shift has three personnel on duty.

‘A’ shift was the only shift that had its full complement of three full-time personnel, with one Battalion Chief and two firefighters. The ‘B’ and ‘C’ shifts each had a Battalion Chief and one firefighter, and used a volunteer or reserve to fill out the three-person crew. That arrangement will last through the end of this month, while fire season is considered to still be in effect, said Pelot.

“For B and C shifts, they would work the days for us, they would work a 24-hour shift, they were paid, basically as part time employees,” he explained of volunteers and reserves. “That way it supplemented our manpower on those two shifts.”