Firefighters turn out for volunteer assistant chief
East Fork firefighters gathered to say farewell to fellow volunteer P.J. “Bud” Semas Saturday at the Antelope Valley Methodist Church in Coleville, Calif. Semas, honored for being the oldest active fireman in the state of Nevada, retired from the Topaz Lake Fire Department at the age of 82. He died April 14, just one week shy of his 85th birthday.
A parade of fire engines from the district came in procession down Highway 395 with sirens and lights to honor Semas. An honor guard stood at the doorway of the tiny little Antelope Valley Methodist Church as firefighters, family and friends filled the church to capacity. At the closing of the ceremony, his eldest son, Ron Semas, was presented with a flag from President Bush in honor of the 10 years of devoted service his father had given to the Topaz Lake Fire Department.
Semas and wife Wanda had come to the Topaz Lake area when he retired in 1989. Semas owned several gas stations and motorcycle repair shops in Southern California. Always active in the communities they had lived in, the couple quickly became involved in their new community. Semas joined the volunteer fire department and Wanda volunteered with Barton Hospice where she received many awards including Volunteer of the Year for Carson Valley in 1998.
Semas, with his strong work ethic and his “What would John Wayne do” attitude, soon became assistant chief at the fire department and a member in charge of water tender 5. Retiring Topaz Lake Fire Department Fire Chief Bob Gable told about the time Semas had been on the fireline for over 48 hours and when his relief came, Semas refused to leave because the fire was still burning. Semas demoted himself to captain when he finally admitted he couldn’t get suited up for an emergency fast enough but he stayed on for another year to train his replacement.
Not only was Semas dedicated to his job, he was also dedicated to his wife and family. Upon his retirement, he spent his time caring for his wife of 58 years as she was succumbing to the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Wanda Semas died December 23, 2004. He had been suffering from bladder cancer but with the dedication to his wife he had made his illness unknown to most until she was gone.
Semas leaves behind his four children, Donna, Ron, Bill and Craig, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, a multitude of friends and his beloved 16-year-old dog Kayla.
The family requests that any memorial contribution be sent “In memory of Bud and Wanda Semas” to the: Northern Nevada Chapter Alzheimer’s Association, P.O. Box 6362, Reno, NV 89513.