Firefighters, best friends graduate academy together

Best friends Nick Summers and Patrick Hughes will graduate from the The Northern Nevada Fire and Rescue Academy in May, but that will only be the beginning for these goal-oriented young men. They are members of our Ruhenstroth Volunteer Fire Department, having completed their Entry Level Firefighter training through East Fork Fire District about six months ago. Both joined the department in March 2004 prior to graduating from Douglas High School that same year.

"Terry, Patrick's dad (who is Fire Chief of Ruhenstroth Volunteer Fire Department as well as Captain of Tahoe Douglas Fire Department), got us involved by talking about the fire department and got us to come to some of the meetings," Summers said. "We liked the camaraderie and the willingness of the members to answer our questions and help us learn. And it is a really cool job. Growing up, I also had a lot of influence from my Uncle Jim (Summers) who was battalion chief with the Rocklin Fire Department near Sacramento."

Hughes has completed Emergency Medical Technician Basic Life Support training, a certification that is accepted by most states.

"Attending the fire academy furthers the education and training that I have received through East Fork (Fire District)," said Hughes. "It also gives you credits toward an associate of applied science or bachelor of science degree in firefighting.

"Graduating from the academy offers more opportunities with our volunteer fire department, as well as being able to be hired as a professional firefighter (who receives a salary). The fire academy covers all four phases of ELF training - HazMat (hazardous materials), structure, wildland and EMS - plus training at the Firefighter I and II levels."

The fire academy is located on the campus of Truckee Meadows Community College in North Reno and offers two curriculums to their students. Hughes is attending the one-semester program, where he attends classes Monday through Friday for three months. Summers is attending the three-semester program and attends classes every other weekend for nine months.

In addition to graduating from the fire academy, Summers will also graduate from TMCC in May with an associate in applied science for fire science. He is also attending the University of Nevada, Reno, majoring in business management; but he says that will probably change.

"Right now I'm getting the basic business classes out of the way," said Summers. "Graduating in May will complete two of my goals - fire academy completion and the degree in fire science."

Summers has concentrated on wildland firefighting and spends summers as a seasonal firefighter with North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District.

"I will probably complete paramedic training in the next year or two since most fire departments want more paramedic firefighters rather than EMTs," said Summers. "I'm part of the Slide Mountain Hand Crew with the NLTFPD and we were sent to Texas in early February for two weeks to fight their wildfires. It was pretty memorable going with the group. I just took all my school work with me and worked on assignments on the trip down and back."

According to Justin Broglio's Feb. 26 article in the North Lake Tahoe Bonanza, 18 members were part of the only specialized hand crew sent to Abilene to assist other volunteer fire departments, the National Guard, and the U.S. Forest Service. They were challenged with extreme winds as well as working in a geographically flat area with few landmarks to use in triangulating positions (such as the mountains here in Nevada).

With such a busy schedule it is difficult to find spare time; but when he does, Summers likes to spend time with friends camping, boating and fishing around Lake Topaz.

"Both of my parents, John and Charlene, are teachers and currently live up at Lake Tahoe," said Summers. "My older brother, Jake, recently graduated from Lake Tahoe Community College with an AAS in Fire Science. He also graduated last semester from the Fire Academy under the one semester curriculum and is presently an intern at Station 14 in Minden.

"Anyone that might be interested in firefighting, just go to your local fire department and meet the people and see what they do. You can complete the ELF training; and even if you don't like it enough to go on to the academy, it's a great way to give back to your community and help your neighbors."

Hughes spends summers as a seasonal firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service in the Tahoe Management Unit located at South Shore Lake Tahoe in Myers, Calif.

"Being a member of the volunteer fire department gives me an opportunity to serve the public and help people that are in need," Hughes said. "I plan to increase my education to be a paramedic and would like to get hired as a professional firefighter in a department that is in the area (possibly as far away as Sacramento) because staying close to family is important to me. I don't believe you can ever learn enough or be the greatest at what you do - there is always room for improvement."

Hughes enjoys all water sports such as wake boarding and boating up at Lake Tahoe and being with family - parents Terry and April and younger brothers Colton and Drew.

"As an attack firefighter, I am capable of all risks; but I am always moved at the way a family can rejoice over their safety when faced with great personal loss," said Hughes. "I remember a family that literally lost everything they own but were still so appreciative that all of their family members were safe. It really puts everything in perspective for you."

Hughes has tried to model his life after a quote by baseball great Jackie Robinson: "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."

A heartfelt thank you to Nick Summers and Patrick Hughes for their time and efforts in making our community a better place.

Have a ramblin' good week!

n Gail Davis' columns normally run on the second and fourth Friday of the month. Due to the extent of this column it was held until today. Her next column will appear on April 7. To reach Davis, e-mail or call 265-1947.


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