In an era of continuing budget cuts and constraints, Escalon Consolidated Fire Protection District is among those organizations utilizing reserves as a way to fill the gap.
Reserve firefighters are those that live outside the district, are eager for a way to practice their chosen craft as they look for fulltime work in the field, and earn a small stipend for their efforts. They are also required to put in a specific amount of hours per month to maintain that reserve status.
"In recent months we've brought on four new reserves," said Escalon Fire Chief Rick Mello. "Their minimum requirement is 48 hours a month, they work those hours however they want."
Some will cover a couple of 24-hour shifts, others will put in a straight 48 hours at the Coley Avenue station, while still others break it down into eight - to 10-hour chunks of time.
The newest reserves on the fire department rolls are Ryan Strasser of Modesto, Josh Sandoval of Ceres, Miguel Padilla of Dublin and Michael Franzi of French Camp. Strasser, Sandoval and Franzi all attended the Modesto Fire Academy, Padilla attended Chabot Fire Academy.
"Typically, we have three fulltime personnel on duty, a battalion chief and two firefighters," explained Mello. "When we have a reserve on, that helps us meet that 'two in, two out' commitment for structure fires."
Having the reserves on board allows the department more flexibility and provides that measure of safety, especially on structure fires, with two department members entering a structure and two on the outside for support and assistance.
Mello said Monday seems to be one of the busiest days for reserves to suit up and show up, and that works well since that is the department's primary training day.
"Our first Monday of the month is safety, the second and third Mondays, training topics range from medical situations to river rescues."
Three reserves were on duty on one recent day, working a number of annual fire inspections of businesses with fulltime firefighter Mike Rebensdorf. Those assisting were Jason Hernandez, a two-year reserve out of Manteca; Sandoval, from Ceres and Mason Vickers of Acampo, who has been with the department about a year and a half.