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Volunteer is rewarded for dedication

by Merrie Leininger, staff reports

Lt. Kelly Jinks is teased a lot about her 5-foot-2-inch frame, but she still stands tall among her fellow firefighters.

Jinks, 29, was just named the first woman officer in the Ranchos Volunteer Fire Department.

After a captain in the department recently left to become a professional firefighter, another officer filled the position, but that left a lieutenant slot open.

“The yellow hats (firefighters) put my name in. If they didn’t feel I was qualified, they never would have done that. The officers make the decision,” Jinks said.

She said she was glad to know the other firefighters supported her enough to want her to be promoted. The officers agreed.

Operations Capt. Guy Yeoman said the officers – the chief, three captains and two lieutenants – look for experience, leadership ability, the ability to make decisions in a crisis situation, overall performance and dedication.

He said Jinks is especially dedicated, but demonstrated all those traits during the flood of 1997.

“She worked her butt off,” Yeoman said.

Jinks said she especially enjoys being able to teach new volunteers the ropes.

“I try real hard to give my experience to the new guys so they know all the scenes aren’t the same. Even if a scene looks safe, it can turn quickly and they have to watch out,” Jinks said.

Watching out for the other volunteers will be the majority of Jinks’ job now.

“I will be responsible for the entire fire crew on an apparatus. If someone gets hurt, I’m responsible. I have to make sure everyone at the scene is safe, even the general public,” Jinks said.

Yeoman said she will also be working with him to supervise the day-to-day operations of running the biggest station in the county.

Jinks said there is a major requirement for anyone who wants to join the department.

“There are always openings for anybody. If they love their community and want to do something positive, it is the best place to be. We are absolutely dedicated. This is the station to get started in if you want a career in firefighting,” Jinks said.

She said in the five years she has been with the department, she has come to love the work and the sense of camaraderie even though there are only three other active women volunteers in the station.

“I’m definitely part of the group. They have made me feel like a part of this station and this brotherhood since I showed up,” Jinks said. “They tease me a lot about how short I am, but I don’t care. It’s all in fun. There is a place here for everyone.”

Jinks said she was always aware of the volunteers’ work because many of her uncles and cousins have been volunteers.

In 1994, she joined the Genoa station, but within a year, she and her children, David, 11, and Alicia, 9, moved to the Ranchos.

She said being an active participant in the community is important to her.

“I can’t expect anyone to step up and help the community if I’m not willing to do that,” she said.

Jinks is a EMT-Basic, which means she can perform basic first aid when the volunteers are called for help. She has also completed the entry level firefighter training program required of all volunteers in the East Fork Fire District. During that training, volunteers learn about fighting structure and wildland fires, dealing with hazardous material problems and get basic emergency medical service training.

“East Fork is a remarkable district. If there is something you want to learn, they’ll find a class for you,” Jinks said.

While continuing to train and volunteer, Jinks works at the 7-Eleven convenience store on Tillman Avenue and is studying toward her degree in juvenile justice at Western Nevada Community College.

Despite all that, and caring for her two children as a single mom, her family is behind her continuing her work with the fire department, even though it takes so much time. Jinks said the station has had close to 500 calls for service this year, and Jinks said she went on 72 of them.

“My children are both 100 percent behind me and my mom is also behind me. They know this is something I love to do and as long as I’m able, I’ll do it,” Jinks said.