South county volunteer departments combine

Starting Aug. 1, Topaz Ranch Estates Volunteer Fire Department, Station 4 and Topaz Lake Volunteer Fire Department, Station 5 in southern Douglas County will consolidate under one name - Topaz Volunteer Fire Department.

"The consolidation is mostly just paperwork," Volunteer Fire Chief Dave Thomas said. "We will still have the two stations equipped in the same way. But now all the volunteers from both stations will be working together, trained on all the equipment from both stations."

It also means the annual fundraisers like the Topaz Lake Station 5 annual barbecue and the Halloween, Christmas and Easter events sponsored by the Topaz Ranch Estates Station 4 will all be under one roof, with support from both stations. There will be one bank account. It will be a combining of resources and manpower.

"From an operational standpoint, nothing will change," Station 4's Volunteer Fire Chief Coreen Hutchison said. "We have always worked together, it's just that now it is going to be a lot easier. If the lake station needs a bigger tender than the one they have, they can now just come to station 4 and pick up the one here."

"So often in the past, coming from where I live near Spring Valley, I would head for Station 4 rather than try to get to Topaz Lake," Thomas said. "We were all going to end up at the same place anyway. I just knew I could get to Station 4 first."

The available manpower will be greater as well. With volunteer recruitment at an all-time low, the East Fork stations are looking for more volunteers.

"East Fork is one of the best for any who is looking for a career opportunity," Hutchison said. "Training is paid for through the district."

A young person can enter the cadet program at 16 and work their way up through the ranks. But, there are many more volunteer positions and opportunities.

Time is needed in many facets of the fire department other than the actual firefighting jobs, bookkeeping, fundraising, manning phones and many other helpful positions, freeing fire trained personnel to actually fight the fires.

"Kevin Repan joined us as a seasonal volunteer and now he is working as a full time firefighter," Hutchison said. " For younger people the career opportunities are enormous. Skye Dwinell started as a cadet and now he is paid staff."

Of the 17 East Fork stations, 13 are manned completely by volunteers. Topaz Lake and TRE have two full-time career personnel working in rotation shifts. By September they are expecting to have three.

"Volunteers, for the most part, have other jobs," Hutchison said. "We don't get paid for what we do here. We need the paid personnel as the community is growing."

The Topaz Volunteer Fire Department represents all of southern Douglas County starting at Leviathan to the California stateline at Topaz Lake and over to the Lyon County line.

By August, Chuck Fields will be president of the consolidated Topaz Volunteer Fire Department. Officers will be Vice President John Trent, Secretary Cheryl St. Onge and Treasurer Carol Dettorre. Chief Dave Thomas will be volunteer fire chief for the combined unit. TRE Volunteer Fire Chief Coreen Hutchison, who now works full time for Sierra Front Interagency Dispatch, will continue as a volunteer.


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