Retired teamster on fire department |

Retired teamster on fire department

by Gail Davis

Jim Gesselman joined the Ruhenstroth Volunteer Fire Department more than five years ago after retiring from the teamsters.

“Each year as the fundraiser (RVFD’s annual barbecue) approached, Mark Gonzales, Training Captain for RVFD, kept suggesting that I join,” Gesselman said. “It took five years before I finally said OK.”

Gesselman turned 70 years old in June, and while he was worried that there wouldn’t be much of a need for someone that wasn’t going to be front-line, he has found out that there is a great need for those that are able to provide support to the first responders.

As a firefighter, Gesselman has to pass the physicals, training, etc.

“I prefer to move the heavy equipment and lend support while leaving the more physically demanding parts of the job to the first responders,” Gesselman said. “Even if you don’t have the physical strength necessary to be a first responder, there are many ways to help. For instance, during the day someone is needed to retrieve phone messages; and when responding to an incident, you can help with the equipment, getting the gurneys, the medical bags, changing air bottles on the firefighters backs, driving the vehicle while the EMS monitor the patients, there are a lot of necessary tasks for the volunteer. All of these save steps which can translate to saving lives and property in an emergency situation.”

He and his wife, Vera, bought land here while still living in Southern California.

“We always knew we wanted to live here when we retired,” he said.

They were able to bring that plan to fruition sooner than they originally thought with an offer for early retirement 10 years ago.

After they moved here, his parents also followed, as did their son. Their daughter lives in Colorado. His favorite spot in the area is around Lake Tahoe when time permits. He jokes that he may have to go back to work to be able to get some time to rest. Gesselman also volunteers at the Douglas County Senior Center driving seniors to the Veterans Administration Hospital, doctor’s appointments, etc., in the center’s van.

Gesselman’s most memorable response was the Jake’s Hill head-on collision, May 31, 2003, where Highway 395 had to be closed so four Care Flight helicopters could transport the injured.

Many departments were there for the rescue efforts, the resulting brush fire, and clean up. Another one would have to be the Coleville-Walker fire in the summer of 2002.

When asked what message he would like to get to his neighbors, Gesselman said, “Get involved in your community. While fire fighting may not be for everybody, there is always something available for you to do. And above all else, have respect for your neighbor.”

When I asked him what he would do if he were in charge, without hesitation he said, “Build a new senior center in Douglas County. We really need one.”

We really appreciate your time and service to our neighborhood and community. Thank you, Jim.