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Department ranked among nation’s busiest

Auburn Fire responds to large variety of calls, firefighters say
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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The Auburn Fire Department is among the nation’s busiest fire agencies with one engine, a staff of 10, four relief positions and about eight volunteers. In the August edition of Firehouse, a publication for United States and Canadian firefighters, the Auburn Fire Department was named the 240th busiest station in 2009. The department responded to1,868 calls last year. Auburn was the eighth busiest single-engine station in the country. The department also had the 220th busiest chief in 2009. Lucas Rogers, who has been with Auburn Fire for 10 years, said the staff is proud of its place on the list. “I think we take a lot of pride in it at the station, because we are extremely short staffed,” Rogers said. “It takes a lot for us to do it, and we find a way to make it all come together.” Rogers said the department experiences all types of calls, but several happen more often than others. “We consistently run a large number of medical aid year round,” he said. “We have our seasons where things are more prevalent, like during the summer we have a lot more wildfires. In the winter … vehicle accidents replace wildfires.” Rogers said the department usually preps those experiencing medical problems before an ambulance arrives on scene, and every full-time firefighter is an emergency medical technician. Animal rescue and educational outreach are also big parts of what the department does. Auburn Fire Chief Mark D’Ambrogi said some factors that add to the department’s call volume are the accessibility of the area through Interstate 80 and Grass Valley Highway. When people visit the city, incidents go up. “This community is so busy with different events,” D’Ambrogi said. “We are just becoming a popular spot. (More) people bring (more) calls.” John Williamson, who has also been working for the department for 10 years, said every day as an Auburn firefighter is different from the last. “You don’t know what you are going to get day to day,” Williamson said. “Some days you are working on the computer and some days you never make it into the office to work on your reports at all.” Bill Brock-Jones, who has almost 40 years with the department, said Auburn Fire has changed immensely from the time when he started at the all-volunteer agency. Brock-Jones described memories of seeing bankers, doctors, butchers and businessmen running to the engine when a fire broke out. Brock-Jones said he still remembers the night when two trucks crashed on Interstate 80 about 25 years ago. Cattle escaped from one of the trucks and firefighters had to help round them up. “Not only were we firemen, we were cattle haulers that night,” Brock-Jones said. “That was a unique situation there.” Brock-Jones said the department has become more professional over the years with better training and equipment. Rogers said the department has helped in a certain kind of aid frequently, when wedding bands are too small or a person’s finger swells. “We have a cut a lot of wedding rings off,” he said. “For the most part they can always get it fixed and with the tools we have, we are able to get them off pretty quickly, and it’s pretty painless.” Williamson said they also still get calls to rescue cats from trees. Rogers said citizen feedback is also a great reward for firefighters. “It’s always good when you go to a vehicle accident and people come by to thank you,” he said. Brock-Jones said the camaraderie among firefighters is also a very positive part of the job. “You are one in the same, you are a brother,” he said. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com