When firefighters are done fighting fires, the work of a dedicated group of volunteers and district personnel just begins.
As evidenced during near the Wildwood/Pacific border, REHAB team members take their roles of reinvigorating, supporting and checking the vital signs of local firefighters very seriously.
Local firefighters are supported by a novel group and initiative launched about 16 months ago, said Sheila Frost, the Eureka Fire Protection District inspector who organizes the group. She said they modeled the program after a few others they heard about in other states, and expanded it.
"This is something unique to Eureka," Frost said. "Not that many other fire districts have a support team like this."
REHAB members arrive on the scene of fires, with a trailer equipped with all sorts of supplies, such as first-aid kits, safety cones, tent gazebos and portable chairs and tables.
Thursday, they set up right on a section of Highway OO, and immediately provided cooling chairs for firefighters who are required to take breaks at certain intervals. REHAB members checked their blood pressure and other vital signs, provided them with healthy, energizing snacks such as oranges, bananas and salty snacks, such as Goldfish, energy bars, and Smuckers Crustables.
REHAB members also provided extra water and ice, of which some was supplied and sent by after that staff heard about the two-alarm fire.
Frost said the group consists of about 12 volunteers, plus key district staff and occasion CERT volunteers who are trained community residents.
She said volunteers are paged once fire calls activate. Each volunteer responds regarding whether they can go to the fire scene, and some pick up needed food and beverages enroute.
Frost said they have a special arrangement with in Eureka to be able to pick up hot water during winter months so they can offer coffee, cocoa, tea and cup-of-soups to the firefighters.
Fires obviously surprise all involved. An example of real dedication was Carol Pikey of House Springs on Thursday. (See video that accompanies this article.) She was headed to The Muny for her 72nd birthday when the call about the two-alarm fire sounded. She said there was no doubt in her mind where she belonged, though, so off into the 108 to 110-degree heat she went to help cheer on the firefighters who worked very hard not to allow a brush fire to get out of control.
"They are all so worth it," declared Pikey.