BELLA VISTA, Calif. - The Shasta County Fire Department is gearing up for fire season.
Ron Smith, the fire chief of the Bella Vista Volunteer Fire Company, has been a volunteer for the last 20 years.
He said there are about 200 men and women, like him, who voluntarily give up their time to help save lives. He mentioned many of the volunteers have a part-time or full-time job.
"If you live in Northern California there is a good chance a volunteer fire department serves your area," Smith explained. "We are an all-risk fire department. We do medicals, we do traffic accidents, we do structure fires, we do HAZMAT. The list is endless."
He added they also help fight wildfires.
"There's a thought that volunteers don't do a lot," Smith said. "In most cases [we] are the first ... resources that are going to arrive."
The volunteers are all trained and certified.
"We have to go through really extensive training," Smith noted.
However, they are constantly training to stay up-to-date with new requirements.
"California is known for its wildfires and we don't want to be one of the statistics," he said.
Each week the fire companies meet and spend hours training. As fire season approaches their training focus switches to wildfires.
"We go over some of the past incidents in some of our recent trainings. Some of the things to watch out for in serious events," Smith said.
With the help of CAL FIRE personnel, the volunteers practice skills such as connecting hoses to efficiently get to a fire farther away.
Smith explained these trainings are also important so they can practice working as a team.
"We all have our strengths and we all have our weaknesses. There is a lot of teamwork and getting to know the other people on your team is essential," he said.
When a fire does break out sometimes volunteers are asked to travel to different parts of the state.
"Last year we went all over the state to fight fires. We went to L.A., we went to Napa, we went to Fresno, we went to Monterey, we went to Siskiyou," he said. "So it's not just here in our local area. It's all over the state where we are needed."
Volunteers can sometimes be gone for weeks, meaning they leave their main job behind and help fight fires.
"It's a lot of work but it's fulfilling when you go out and you are able to help put a fire out," Smith said with a smile on his face.
He said being a volunteer firefighter is rewarding.
Smith mentioned during big fire events people try to come down to the station to volunteer. However, it can take weeks or even months to get certified.
He added that volunteers are always needed.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer with the Shasta County Fire Department click here.