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Logging On - Reserve Firefighter Piles Up Hours
Hired as a reserve firefighter in July 2010, Drew Newell logged 2,305 hours of duty with the Escalon Fire Department for 2011.

He was the reserve with the most service during the year, accounting for about 96 days. According to the fire department bylaws, reserves must put in 48 hours per month minimum to maintain their reserve status. Newell is far above that minimum requirement.

"I love the opportunity to get the experience, you don't know what you're going to get on any shift," Newell said of the attraction of firefighting.

He also said the camaraderie with the crew at the firehouse has been an added benefit.

As a reserve, Newell isn't relegated to any specific shift, so he has had the opportunity to work with all three battalion chiefs during the year, including Joe Pelot, Terry Pinheiro and Fred Manding. He said each battalion chief has their area of expertise and he has enjoyed watching and learning from each of them.

"Us as reserves, they allow us to be involved," Newell said of getting in and doing the job on a day to day basis. "We get to have some really good experience."

He has also enjoyed a variety of community service efforts, from doing fire safety and prevention assemblies in local schools to helping with the recent 'Toys for Tots' distribution and helping provide holiday cheer for area families.

Reserves are paid a small stipend for a 12-hour shift, though the funding is limited and many of Newell's hours for the year are being put in only for experience, not pay.

He also has other jobs that do pay the bills, he said, working part-time for both ProTransport 1 (medical transport service) out of Walnut Creek and as an EMT with Manteca District Ambulance.

A resident of Tracy, Newell graduated from West High School and finished his associates degree in fire scene at Modesto Junior College, attending the fire academy there with Escalon resident Nate Keyser.

It was, in fact, Keyser who suggested Newell become a reserve with the local department.

As far as interesting cases since he has served as a reserve, Newell said it's hard to pinpoint any one in particular.

"They're all kind of interesting in their own way and they're all different," he said.

Escalon Consolidated Fire Protection District Fire Chief Rick Mello said Newell is a solid addition to the department, and leads a group of talented and dedicated reserves and volunteers.

"He's the kind of guy you want on your staff," Mello said.

Currently, there are no openings for Escalon firefighters on the paid staff, so Newell and others will continue their reserve shifts, which do help the department maintain its desired staffing level, said Mello.

Reserve firefighters, in addition to Newell, are Michael Franzi, Jason Fuzie, Jason Hernandes, Miguel Padilla, Joshua Sandoval, Ryan Strasser, and Ray Whitler. Volunteers are Nate Keyser, Jake Merrill, David Velasco, Travis Bonds, Travis Chamberlain and Joe Collins. Volunteers are those who live in the city; reserves live outside the fire protection district boundaries.

"It's not about the money here, it's about the training, the service," Newell summarized. "A career in the fire service is my ultimate goal."