WILLIAMS - Firefighters with the Williams Volunteer Fire Department (WVFD) lead busy lives. Not only do they fight fires and respond to emergency situations on a regular basis, but they also hold full-time jobs outside the department.
They keep their "day job" because work as a firefighter for the WVFD is essentially a volunteer position.
Williams Fire Chief Jeff Dent estimates that over the last five years the WVFD has responded to approximately 120 calls per year. The department assists with Life Line for extrications, responds to gas leaks and has even been called out to take care of swarms of bees."
"You name it, they call us," Dent said.
The department has two fire stations in Williams, one on Rodeo Road and another on the corner of Grant and Fourth Street. Currently, 23 firefighters work for the department along with one cadet and one trainee.
According to Dent, the WVFD actively recruits new members. Recruits need a sponsor from the department in order to be voted on to the force. The sponsor acts as the recruit's mentor through the training and helps to assimilate the recruit into the department.
Recruits first enter a six-month probationary period to complete training and train with two training officers one night per week. The trainees must pass a written test at the end of the six months but, more importantly, they must pass a series of physical tests.
"You have to pass certain practical tests such as donning your equipment in a certain time period, being able to pump the trucks and being able to show proficiency on your self contained breathing apparatus," Dent said. "The air packs, they're almost the same as scuba gear."
After recruits have completed their probationary period they are voted on to the force by the department as full-time members. Although not required by the WVFD, further certification can be obtained through the State Fire Marshall.
"We don't require more certification. We just require that they go through our training, which is essentially the same as the state. We just can't certify them ourselves," Dent said.
WVFD firefighters receive a stipend for their service but Dent said it's not enough to live on. The department does offer an optional pension plan along with the stipend.
During the Twin Fire, the department was called into action to help with structure protection in the Escalante subdivision. The department's legal jurisdiction is the city of Williams but Dent said the department often helps outside of Williams city limits.
"We've always responded outside and we have mutual aid agreements with all the departments around us," he said.
Dent has been Fire Chief for three years. The office is up for election within the department every year and must be approved by the city council. Department members also elect officers from within the department at the same time.
"There was a little bit of a change over this year," Dent said. "A few of our captains stepped down and let some of our younger guys kind of step up and take those jobs."