Persistence … and patience … pay off. Just ask David Velasco.
The longtime Escalon Fire Department reserve firefighter has now officially joined the ranks of fulltime personnel there, selected to fill the firefighter position left vacant when Moe Silva was named a Battalion Chief.
For Velasco, it is literally a dream come true.
“I started as a volunteer here in 2000,” he said of his 20-year stint already with the department. “I stayed active the full 20 years, when I moved out of town, I transitioned to a reserve.”
Staying active, working shifts, Velasco had other fulltime jobs as well but kept his reserve status with Escalon and never lost sight of his dream of becoming a firefighter fulltime.
“I did tow truck driving, working in security, was onsite EMT at Gallo,” he explained of the variety of positions he has held.
Most recently, he has spent the past three years at Memorial Medical Center as a technician and plans to keep that job as well, juggling it with duties here.
Getting the job with Escalon Fire, however, is something that he is relieved to have achieved.
“It’s a big weight off my shoulders,” he admitted. “It’s just a dream come true, really, it took a while but it’s something I’ve never stopped wanting.”
Escalon Consolidated Fire Protection District Chief Rick Mello said the recruitment for the firefighter positon was done with the assistance of Donnoe and Associates out of Sacramento, a firm they have used before.
“We just kept it internal,” the chief explained. “It consisted of a written test and an oral interview panel. It was a very tough decision because you’ve got our great people competing for one position.”
The oral interview panel included former Escalon firefighter Jesse Miguel, now with Modesto Fire Department; Captain Brad Schemper out of Manteca and Captain Jeremy Abundiz out of Ripon.
Mello said there were seven candidates from within the department vying for the fulltime position.
Velasco was assigned to the ‘A’ shift to work with Battalion Chief Dan Morriss.
Currently, each of the three shifts has a Battalion Chief and a firefighter and then has a third person on duty.
“This time of year we have our seasonal personnel so they, or our reserves or volunteers can work as the third person on the shift,” explained Mello, noting that the seasonal personnel are brought on from Memorial Day through Oct. 31, primarily to assist through the height of the fire season.
Velasco worked his first shift as the department’s newest fulltime firefighter on July 26 and 27 and now joins the rotating shift schedule.
He said witnessing a cousin of his being involved in an accident and “not knowing what to do” is what prompted his interest in firefighting/EMT as a career.
“I was about 17 or so and it stuck with me,” he said.
Velasco graduated from Escalon High School in 1998 and now lives in Delhi.
“That saying, if you enjoy what you do you’ll never work a day in your life? I’m there,” he said.