The Johnson Lane Volunteer Fire Department will celebrate 40 years of service at its Annual Pancake Breakfast on Father’s Day.
The station has grown with the East Valley area over the past four decades and has seen ups and downs with the community’s economy, said Chief Mike Randall.
“The station started in 1973 with seven members, it was incorporated in 1974 but didn’t have a station until 1975,” Randall said.
The first station built for the VFD was “built by volunteers and donated materials,” he said.
“It only had two garage doors and a bathroom and none of our trucks would fit into it,” Randall said.
Nostalgia for the old days is easy when the modern station now can fit water tenders, brush trucks and an ambulance, support firefighter Dave Ruben said.
“Some guys used to have to drive their trucks home with them and park them at their house,” he said.
To celebrate their 40th anniversary, the crew made shirts with their old logo—“like the football throwback uniforms”—and put “life member” on the shirts for firefighters who have been with the VFD for 10 years or more.
Support firefighter Richard Atwood said that new members usually stay in service for four to five years and they receive one to two new recruits each year.
“Nevada is a highly transient state and we’ve lost a lot of volunteers because of the dive in the housing market recently,” he said. “That’s where most of our guys had day jobs—in building, construction.”
Atwood said that the VFD is a “springboard” for some men and women to join wildland fire crews or structure fire crews.
“Our members attend the same academy as the career staff and all graduate as firefighter ones,” he said. “We have to respond to the same emergencies that they do—emergency medical services, aircraft rescue, flood, everything.
He said volunteers “give tremendous amounts of their time.”
Atwood said that nonactive members come back to provide support in the kitchen or around the fire station when the volunteers are on a fire.
“We have guys come back to mentor younger volunteers and sometimes they’ll come during a fire and we’ll see them and their wife in the kitchen cooking for us,” he said. “Once a firefighter, always a firefighter.”
Volunteer fire departments provide extra staff of which both wildland and structure fires require a lot, Randall said.
“Once we get a tip then we’re all off to the races,” he said. “Staff can get spread thin.”
In order to better serve the community and assist other stations, Randall said that money earned from this year’s pancake breakfast will go towards obtaining another “air pack” or a self-contained breathing apparatus to provide oxygen to firefighters.
One air pack costs $8,000, Randall said.
“We have a saying: Two in, two out,” he said. “Right now we only have three air packs on our engine so we can’t have two guys go into a building because we don’t have enough air packs for the guys on the outside to be able to help them.”
The fire crew hopes that it can keep upgrading its facility and its equipment to support not only the Johnson Lane area but all of Douglas County and even Carson City fire departments.
“People forget about volunteer fire departments and what we do,” Randall said. “We’re here to support everyone.”
The pancake breakfast will be held from 8 a.m. to noon on June 15 at the fire station on 1450 Stephanie Lane. Tickets cost $6 for adults and $3 for kids 12 and under. A raffle and silent auction will be held with prizes including a free night at the Atlantis, infield tickets for the Reno Aces, and a trip to Pier 39 for a family of four. For more information, call 267-2675.