CAL FIRE NEWS - Cal Fire/San Luis Obispo County Fire Department
Volume 1, Issue 1
CAL FIRE NEWS
San Luis Obispo Unit
To the first issue of “San Luis Obispo Unit Happenings...” The purpose of this
newsletter is to share current events, battalion updates, important information,
happy news, upcoming events, etc., with the unit. If you would like to submit
some common interest stories, upcoming events, new babies, marriages, awards,
history, photos, etc… please send me the information for inclusion in the newsletter. Everyone has an opportunity to contribute something.
Cuesta Camp Bautista
Seasonal FF Academy
We hope you enjoy this first issue and those to come!
Message from Chief Jenkins
We are now at Fire Season Staffing Summer Preparedness Level (peak staffing)
and ready for another California summer. Please note I did not use the term
“Fire Season.” With the transition to “CAL FIRE” and true recognition as the
State’s Fire Department there comes an expectation by the Governor and the
residents of our State that we are prepared to staff and manage any emergency
on a year-round basis. We are no longer a seasonal organization. We now staff
at the Summer and Winter Preparedness Levels with a Spring and Fall Transition
period where we increase and/or decrease our resources in accordance with predicted fire potential. This allows each Unit to evaluate potential risk and adjust
the staffing and number of available resources accordingly.
Another important aspect of loosing the term “Fire Season” from our vocabulary
is that we have inadvertently trained our residents to believe that wildland fires
only occur during “Fire Season.” This tends to encourage people to let their
guard down during the rest of the year. We all know that in parts of California it
is possible to experience wildland fires any time of the year. Remember the
Diablo Fire burning on our coastline in January 2007?
As you are all aware, these are very financially challenging times for State and
Local Government. We do not know for sure exactly how the State’s financial
situation may impact CAL FIRE during this next fiscal year. However, clearly the
Governor is a strong supporter of emergency services as is evident by the fact
that we are not subject to furloughs and for the fourth year in a row he has signed
an Executive Order increasing our peak staffing to four person engine companies.
We are just now concluding the budget process with our local contracts (SLO
County, Pismo Beach, Los Osos, Avila Beach, and Cayucos) and while it will be a
very lean year all the way around it appears our levels of service will remain intact. We will be counting on everyone’s assistance and due diligence to keep us
within budget this next year.
(continued on page 14)
Inside this issue:
Battalions 1 and 2
Battalions 3 and 4
Message from Deputy 14
Staff completed inspections for all the businesses in San Simeon and the Ragged Point area this spring. They
continued to work with Cambria Fire Department on Hazard Abatement and LE 100 inspections within the
district to improve defensible space protection on both improved and unimproved lots within the State Responsibility Area of the fire protection district.
Staff successfully completed the latest winter of Amador Assignment in Cayucos Fire Protection District. They
continue to be an integral part of the Cayucos Fire Department as well as provide over site and training to Station 14.
The PCF Company at Station 12 has never been stronger or better trained and continues to support Fire Prevention Education on a routine basis. The staff assisted moving D3440 to the station and helped remodel the
old shop with an office.
Doug Holloway retired as a PCF his year, after over 30 years of service to SLO County Fire Department. Doug
will be missed by everyone in the battalion.
Staff has been very busy with fire prevention education visits to the station as well as to schools in the area.
Hazard Abatement inspection took place for over 6000 lots within the district.
Instructed several classes, both locally and throughout CSR and the Ione Fire Academy this winter as well as
continued working with the Wildland Urban Interface Working Group to complete a training handbook and
provide recommendations to the CAL FIRE OSHTAC Committee. He has also just returned from a week in
Australia where he participated in an Australia/USA Bush Fire Symposium.
Company 20 held a fundraiser BBQ and raised $4400.00 to be used for supplemental rescue equipment, training and most recently to buy instructor material for community CPR program. Great going Company 20!
The Edna Valley Volunteer Company received a $500.00 donation will be used for
additional safety equipment to serve the community.
CONGRATULATIONS to Paul Miner and Dan Hagstrom ~~ they celebrated 20 years of service to the volunteer department and also were recognized by the Nipomo rotary club for their years of dedicated service.
Volume 1, Issue 1
Progress is moving forward towards the replacement of the Paso Robles Station. The new HME Model 34 arrived this year. The replaced Rescue 21 will be refurbished for use as Rescue 30. Company 30 continues to
develop and hosted a Large Animal Rescue class at the station earlier this year. Bob Bergstrom is retiring, big
boots to fill!
Efforts continue in the attempt to recruit more Paid Call Firefighters, but with little results. The “chicken farm” and “Zen garden” have added a nice
touch to station atmosphere. The Rosebauer Model 34 (3461) has been retrofitted with new Chock Block compartments. Engine 3461 was also outfitted with its own set of hydraulic extrication tools in order to enhance the year-round capabilities of the engine for the response area.
Responses for this station have been on the increase as a result of on-going development around Nacimiento Lake. In addition to the increase in full
time occupied housing within the established portion of the ranch, two new housing tracts continue to get built out. More commercial coverage now
exists as a new Food-4-Less style grocery store opened in May of 2010, with the construction ongoing of a gas station with carwash expecting to
open by the end of summer 2010. Steve Meikle and Jim King are now assigned to the Station.
The station was able to acquire an incomplete structure on Nacimiento Lake Drive where we were able to conduct live fire drills in May.
The leased building that is used as Station 34 is showing signs of aging. Developers continue to show interest in building in the area; one is looking
at a possible 100 person church style camp while another is looking at a high end RV Park as the anchor to build a new marina, club house and
The property is leased from a private owner with buildings over 35 years old and most likely are not earthquake safe. The state is in the preliminary
phase of looking at the replacement of the station. Crew and Dozer work is ongoing at the Bonheim property for a fall VMP burn. Tim Harness
transferred over from Battalion 4 and took the reins at 35 this year.
The Haz Mat 1 unit was relocated from Station 30 to Station 36 this year. A new wood shed was purchased for any excess Haz Mat equipment storage needs. Jesse Ryan is back from BEU to fill behind Paul Lee’s promotion.
BC 3414 – Just returned from a teaching assignment at the NFA.
Station 40—staff participated as the Resource Advisors for each of the 6 drill stations during the SLO County Trainign Officer’s Parkhill WUI
Exercise on May 1. Nearly 200 Fire Service staff was involved including over 30 apparatus. Tim Harness built the IAP and performed as the
Operations Section Chief during the exercise. PCF Companies 30 & 40 hosted their own all day drill the following week including several hose
lay evolutions up the challenging Park Hill.
Harvey & Stacey Salazar headed up the Chili Cook off group and entered the ONLY Green Chili recipe at the United Cerebral Palsy Chili Cook
Off at the Graduate in SLO – go green!
The Parkhill Community Church hosted an annual BBQ for Company 40.
Welcome back to SLU - FC Tony Gomes. Congratulations to Clint Marsalek for promotion to FC at Parkhill Station 40.
Station 41 – Staffed during early “ramp up” 3468 IA’d a fire on 58 their first morning on duty; Veteran FC John Montgomery will be partnered
with new FC Damien Juarez during the fire season.
Station 42 – Was not staffed to IA the 800 acre Washburn Ranch fire, however better outcome with new FC Jon Cox and FAE Stephanie Dininni successful 3 acre IA last Thursday.
Station 43 – Looking forward to breaking ground for the new Station 43 later this summer.
The crew at Station 62 has been actively involved in the community with various fire prevention activities. The newly formed See Canyon
Focus Group is making great progress in clearing vegetation around homes in the See Canyon and Davis Canyon areas. Cuesta Camp hand
crews provided the chipper service for the project. Cuesta crews also cleared approximately 50 acres at the top of Nob Hill in the Squire Canyon area. This project will provide residents with an alternate emergency escape route in the event of a fire.
A remodel of the apparatus bay should begin sometime this summer. The existing garage will be lengthened and an additional bay added on
the north side. New Engine 62 is in service. “Kudos to the Equipment Committee and all involved for their great work!”
Training with the Diablo Fire Brigade has been focusing on wildland fire safety in preparation for fire season. The folks at Diablo built a sand
table to use for scenario training. We welcome LT FAE Travis Robertson to the Station. Travis is working behind FAE David Steiner who is
assigned to Station 30 for the summer.
We are now staffing Engine 3473 and ready for fire season. Crews have nearly completed the initial LE-100 inspections in the North Battalion 2 SRA (Huasna, Upper Lopez) and Battalion 6. The follow-up inspections will begin soon. We look forward to regular training with Stations 20 and 12 throughout the summer.
Fire Captain Grundler and crew recently hosted a wildland training drill that included a briefing of the Spanish Ranch Fire, setting up for
WUI, hose lays, and cutting line. The training was attended by Station 64 and units from Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach and Oceano.
Fire Captain Gorman represents CAL FIRE on the Pismo Beach Special Events Committee. The Car Show, on June 19 and 20, brought approximately 100,000 visitors to the area. Gorman organized the fire department preparations for the event.. We want to thank Teddy Borja
for providing his paramedic skills, and the PRAAB for allowing us to borrow their cart for this event. Next up - the Fourth of July extravaganza.
The crew at Station 64 has been very busy with firefighter and lifeguard training. We have weekly night drills with the Reserve Firefighters
and monthly joint training with Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, and Oceano Fire. Recently, several days of auto extrication training were
conducted at the City Yard. All Battalion 6 Reserve Firefighters and Paid Call Firefighters were rotated through the training.
We hired 26 Seasonal Lifeguards to provide additional beach safety during the summer months. The 5 new hires were put through the paces
at the USLA Lifeguard Academy, led by Fire Captain Rick Howard. The water temperature was low and the waves were high. Congratulations to all for passing the Academy!
The Lifeguard staff provided water safety programs to over 200 students at schools in the area.
Goats are making good progress in reducing fuels below homes in the Highlands area, south of Price Canyon. The goat herd was very successful on a similar project last year on the hillsides north of Price Canyon.
Weed Abatement News
Fire Prevention Specialist Tina Rose used a new GPS camera for weed abatement inspections this year. Once the pictures were taken, our GIS
lab was able to download the information onto a Google Earth map with the parcel layer added. We estimate that the process saved about
50% of the usual staff time required to compile the information. Thanks for all of your good work GIS Joe!
Annual Maintenance is complete for all front line schedule “B” engines and we are on schedule with the schedule “A” engines. We just completed warranty work on Smeal engines and Rescue 21 at Station 21. This worked out well and we will be doing more warranty work here rather than sending equipment to Long Beach.
Charlie Miller and Mike Pezzoli are busy working on opening the shop at San Luis HQ. This will allow us to focus on the
“mosquito fleet”, (all utilities and light vehicles to catch up on the maintenance).
New model 34’s at Davis are being worked on to correct a corrosion issue that was found. When completed, they will start
releasing the engines to the units, no date or estimate. If all continues on plan, E3473 then E3472 will be replaced. The plan
would be to move both these units to reserve and send E3464 and E3463 to Davis in that order.
We have started the process to dispose of replaced county vehicles and within the next month will send both Expeditions, a
mechanics vehicle, a prevention pickup and a fire engine to auction.
Hopefully, with Janet Fords help we will also disposed of several federal pieces of excess equipment.
Thanks to everyone for keeping on top of problems and submitting ME14’s. The shops have been doing a great job of staying on top of repairs
and hopefully you are seeing this effort in the field.
Volume 1, Issue 1
Fire Marshal's Office Laura Brown will be out recovering from surgery for the next month or so, but we have received help from Laurie
Donnelly who is on loan from Battalion 6. You will see her in the South County. Clint and Tina are still working
hard, with Chad leading the way. I have had the pleasure of being able to work with them as they show me the
ropes. The new 2010 CFC will be adopted January 1, as always there will be changes that accompany the adoption
which takes place every 3 years. With the 2010 adoption, fire sprinklers will be required for any new residential
structure. This will be a giant step statewide for Fire Prevention. As always, please call if you have any questions
that we can help you or the public with. If you need help or want to make sure you are providing the best answer,
please go to our website www.calfireslo.org.
Prevention Bureau Fire Prevention has seen some changing faces the last few months. Andy Andersen has promoted so Chad & Jane
have been working hard to help keep us afloat on the LE side. As most of you have seen over the past several
weeks, the LE-100 inspections have been taking place. Already this year 14,419 LE-100 inspections have been performed. You have also received many emails from Andy telling us how important it is to keep our inspection numbers up. Please keep up the great work. Fire Prevention would like to thank our firefighters and station staff for
working so hard on the inspections.
Pre-Fire Engineering/GIS Resource Management - The big news is the appointment of our new Forester I (LT), Andy Hubbs. The focus of
Andy's work will be to help get more fuel reduction projects approved and on the ground. We are currently preparing VMP’s in all the battalions with the objective of always having at least one approved prescribed burn in each
battalion. In addition to these VMP’s, we are trying to perform the necessary CEQA reviews for numerous other
projects including Fire Safe Council work and the Station 11 rebuild project. Forester Kim Camilli has surveyed
San Diego CAL FIRE locations for GSOB attacks, results will be out in June. She has also set out exotic wood and
bark borer traps in the county for early detection.
Working on maps and process for Pismo and Los Osos. Received new GPS camera that allows us to speed up the
field inspections. This new technology has doubled the speed in which field inspectors collect data.
Pre Attack Plans
Pre- Attack Plans completed for west Atascadero, Cambria and Los Berros /Suey Creek.
CAD street centerlines- We have received delivery of this project. In the testing phase to see how compatible it is
with CAD and MDC;
CAL VEG update for SLU. Completed all public and private lands; Building layer Countywide – Rural, over
SRA review – Completed. Minor changes to include the SRA areas of the County to match parcel lines.
Ignition History, Prescribed complete, Fire History Completed.
Hydrology layer; HazMat pipeline; Mutual and auto aid layer; Infrastructure, (water treatment, railroads, communication, powerlines); Mobile Data Computers-Local County IT contractor hired for CAD and MDC
Google Earth Station Deployment – Did presentation to SAC IT on importance of this application, was approved.
GIS completing base layer KML files.
Congratulations to Eryn Embree and Keith Tsudama
The happy couple were married May 8, 2010 in
South Lake Tahoe.
Carlos Pacheco is a married man!
Congratulations Carlos and Lindsey, we
wish you both a happy and healthy life
Jimmy Jauregui married Joni
Brewer ~ May 22, 2010
Babies, Babies, Babies!!
Baby McKenna Nichols joined her parents Zach and Aaron Nichols
on January 10, 2010 weighing in at 6 pounds 20 ounces—19 1/2 inches long!
Engineer Garon Coalwell and his wife Lauri welcomed Trajen Coalwell on January 4, 2010.
Congratulations to Clint and Cori Marsalek on their new son! Ryker
William Marsalek came into this world on March 22, 2010, weighing in at
7.6 pounds, 19 inches!
Baby Camryn Grace Heinbach was born to Jeremy and Jana
Heinbach on May 17, 2010. Baby Camryn weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces…
Corbin Elias Gary was born to Miles and Stephanie Gary (Carole
Gary’s new grandson ) on May 2, 2010 - Corbin weighed in at 8.5
pounds—21 inches long!
Promotions, Transfers, Etc...
Volume 1, Issue 1
ECC Chief - Matt Jauregui (Out-of-Class assignment)
Prevention/Law Enforcement - Chad Zrelak (Out-of-Class assignment)
TAU FAE’s— John Byrne, Amber Henderson, Richard Lancaster, Ben Graves, Pete Campbell, Karin Pitts and George
FAE (LT) Ryan Grebe
Fire Captains (LT) - Brett Walker, Clint Marsalek, Damien Juarez, Nick Gelos and Trong Nguyen
TAU FFII’s – Brandon Ramler, Patrick Hibbard, Morgan Partridge
New to SLU:
TAU FAE—Joseph Hatch
FAE (P) - Gabe Garcia and Tyler James
Forester I—Andy Hubbs
GIS Specialist (Permanent from LT) —Joe Larson
Welcome Back to SLU—Captain Tony Gomes from BEU
BEU - Keith Tsudama, Jason Mallett and Roger Rinehart as FF II’s , Mitch Columbo, TAU FAE and Jim Riggio as Fire
BDU - Steve Martin and John McCormick as FF II’s
CZU - Jennifer Mihalco and Jon Cox —Fire Captains
FKU - Steve Langston Fire Captain
MMU - Randy Ibay as FF II
SCU - Marc Lingenfelter, (HFEO)
TGU- Ian Sanderson (FFI)
Awards and Recognition
Congratulations to Misty Marschall-Blake and William Winter on earning the Director’s “Superior Accom-
plishment Awards!” Ceremonies were held Monday, June 28, 2010 in Sacramento! Way to go!
Congratulations to Captain Bob Bergstrom for 25 years of Cal Fire service and upcoming “graduation” into
Congratulations Mike Pezzoli (HFEO) on his upcoming retirement in August!
Congratulations to Paul Miner and Dan Hagstrom ~ they celebrated 20 years of service to the Station 20
volunteer department and also were recognized by the Nipomo rotary club for their years of dedicated service.
Cuesta Camp Annual Bautista Drill
Cuesta Camp just completed its Annual Bautista Drill on May 20, 2010. The Bautista drill consists of
an hour hike over difficult terrain and 2 hours of hand line construction though an average of 12 foot
tall brush. Fire shelters, air drops, tens and eighteens, LCES and medical aid knowledge are all included in the drill. Passing the Bautista drill types the crews out for the year as a Type I Fire Crew. The
drill was done on the Eagle Ranch property.
Thank you Chief Lewin, Chief Van Gerwen, Chief Swan, Ray Rembao, Steve Meikle, Dave Kay, Chad
Britton, Lou Ermigaret, Dave Steiner and Brendon Coalwell for assisting with the drill.
Allan Hancock College Fire Academy Graduate Class 2010
On Friday, May 21, 2010 five Cal Fire employees
graduated from the Fire Academy. Congratulations
to Class 119 ~ Jason P. Tipton, Zachary J. Ulibarri;
Class 121 Steven G. Herring, Sheldon L. Montgomery and Benjamin P. Shank (not pictured) on 584
hours of classroom and manipulative skills training.
Pictured left to right: Jason Tipton, Zachary Ulibarri,
Steven Herring and Sheldon Montgomery
Volume 1, Issue 1
Seasonal Firefighter Academy (#2)
Returnee Seasonal Firefighter Academy 2010 (Class 2) after they completed their physical fitness agility.
Three academies were held so far this year with an emphasis on readiness.
Compliment Passed Along…
From: Jenkins, Matt
Sent: Wed May 19
Subject: Customer Service
The dedication and passion for public service demonstrated by our staff is what truly makes me proud of SLU. Please pass on my
----- Original Message ----From: Carreiro, Dennis
To: Jenkins, Matt
Sent: Thu May 13
Subject: Customer Service
This evening at around 1820 hours, my girl friend was parked on the side of 101 in the Paso Robles area with a flat tire. She was waiting for AAA road service to arrive to
assist her with changing a flat tire. While she was sitting there, a fire engine arrived and asked if she was OK and was there anything that she needed. She explained that
road service was due anytime and that she appreciated the offer. I was on the phone with her and heard the voice on the other end still make the offer to assist, even though
AAA was enroute. While that communication was happening, AAA arrived and the fire engine left. No name was acquired by my friend but she did describe the crew and
that it was CAL FIRE.
I was able to do a little checking and it looks like it was the crew on E-30. The schedule shows FC Manny Beckius and FAE Michelle Cramer. Those two also fit the description given.
I would appreciate it if you can pass along to the crew that these are the things that make me feel good about being a CAL FIRE firefighter. When our folks see a stranded
person on the side of the road and take the time to stop, make sure that the person is OK and then offer to help shows that they have "the right stuff". Tire changing is not
our job but customer service is. Tonight you can be proud of the service delivery by your crew on E-30. They took the extra time and made the extra effort to one of our
customers. They had no idea that this person was connected to CAL FIRE or the fire service. This was a genuine act and it is much appreciated by all.
Once again, thank you to the crew for taking the extra step in customer service.
Dennis A. Carreiro
San Benito-Monterey Unit
More Thank You’s….
Station 12 Personnel
twice a year to gain
valuable skills and learn
the basics of “a day in
the life of a firefighter”
Thank you to the HQ
Station Staff for
students bi-yearly! The
Grizzly Academy truly
appreciate your efforts!
A BIG THANK YOU Company 21 for assisting Prevention with a “shortnotice” request from Supervisor Patterson on June 1, 2010 at the County
PCF Victor Low Company 21
PCF Jordan Dailey Company 12
PCF Drew Amaral Company 12
A special Thank You to the Grizzly
Academy Class 24 Job Shadowing
Elijah Thompson -Smokey
Mark Aguirre -Sparky
Pismo Beach Memorial Day 2010
is a day of
those who have
died in our nation's
Station 63 personnel, Captain Denny O'Neil, FAE Joe Matousek and
FAE Carlos Pacheco served with the Pismo City Police honor guard at
the Memorial Day service at the Pismo Beach Pier honoring the
memory of our military.
Volume 1, Issue 1
After an extremely busy season, Training is finally winding down. We are all learning to adjust to our new surroundings, with meetings/conferences/classes/seminars and more on a
weekly basis. While dealing with so many new faces has been a challenge, it's all good, and
we move ahead knowing that the South Bay Training Center is a welcome addition to the
community and the organization.
Chad is in the midst of the third re-hire academy, and Paul, Chad and Dave and I are actively preparing for our next training season. We have one more up-coming class, Trench
Rescue, and when that class has completed, we will be officially "done" until October.
“If you have scheduled a
meeting or class, please
come in and familiarize
yourself with the
electronics that you will
need - in advance.”
Paul is still actively overseeing our transition to Target Safety, as well as managing new
community college contracts.
With our new Firefighters coming aboard, I'm attempting to have updated and accurate training files, and getting ready to begin to put next Fall's classes on our
website so that our students will have more advance notice than in the past. Speaking of our website, we are fortunate to have Greg Alex in our building. He and his
staff not only keep the website up and running, but he and Joe have been available
to see to it that our electronics are working correctly. We have bothered them far
too often, and are looking forward to the day when things run smoothly and seamlessly and we don't have to run to GIS for assistance.
I would hope that everyone will recognize that all of this is new to us - we have the
ability and the space to host functions that we have never been able to host before,
but the class instructors have a responsibility as well. If you have scheduled a
meeting or class, please come in and familiarize yourself with the electronics that
you will need - in advance. As with all electronics, there are often glitches, and it is
difficult (and sometimes impossible) to deal with a problem at the last minute.
With your continued support, we will all be able to take full advantage of our new
Captain Britton, Captain Kay and Chief
Van Gerwen looking very professional at
Submitted by Diane Draeger
Wildfire is Coming… Are you Ready?
CAL FIRE endorses the Ready, Set, Go program. CAL FIRE’S new program is saving lives and property
through advance planning. http://www.readyforwildfire.org.
As we begin fire season please familiarize yourselves with the new media outreach to the residents of the
state and local wildland urban interface areas. At your station you should have information regarding the
newest plan to survive wildfire, become familiar with it. Ready, Set, Go.
Ready means starting with Defensible Space with good clearance. Being ready also means, Hardening
your home, which includes looking at maintaining a clean roof of resistant materials, closing in eaves,
using ember resistant vents, using fire resistant siding, closing windows and doors, and preparing balconies and decks for fire.
Set is the stage when a fire is moving toward homes and there are inside and outside check lists to fol-
Go, leave early to avoid fire, smoke, road congestion. Don’t wait until told to leave by the authorities.
Be Ready, Set then Go this fire season to aid firefighters in protecting your home.
Stories from the Vault…
by Retired Division Chief Dan Dulitz
THE ENTRAPMENT OF
THOMAS GILBERT GREGERSON
1931 was a very severe fire season in the State of California. San Luis Obispo County
experienced damaging fires beginning in May. Statewide, over 2,800 fires occurred
on private land during the 1931 fire season, burning nearly 900,000 acres. 45% of
those fires were incendiary in origin or caused from unlawful debris burning. The
Great Depression was taking its toll and unemployment was high. Wildfires represented employment opportunities and arson was rampant. The State Board of Forestry proclaimed that “every man without food and shelter is potentially a criminal
within 24 hours of being deprived of these necessities of life.”
In 1931 the “mountain
fire truck” was still a
“Tom Gregerson met
his death from shock
resulting from third
degree burns suffered
while fighting fire in
the sixth district of the
state of California.”
The county had contracted with CDF the previous year but there were no resources
other than Ranger A.O. Gossett, newly hired Assistant Ranger Walter Lynch, and voluntary fire wardens. Many of the experienced fire wardens had quit or were bitter
over their loss of fire season pay status after the CDF “takeover” in May of 1930.
Gossett had no equipment other than several county owned vehicles equipped with
hand tools, gunny sacks, canteens, and back-pumps. A new county funded Reo fire
truck and a CDF 1931 Ford Model A pumper were being built up but not yet available.
There were not yet any “sit-tight” suppression crews available. The Forest Service was
not much better off. District Ranger Fletcher Hayward had several guard stations
staffed with Forest Guards and a few trucks and other vehicles. The San Luis District
of the Santa Barbara National Forest would not have a pumper truck for another
three years. The “mountain fire truck” was still a luxury.
On Tuesday, August 25, 1931, a fire started at the head of Santa Rita Grade between
Cayucos and Templeton and was pushed by strong northwest winds. By noon on
Wednesday the fire had burned two miles into the National Forest. Walt Lynch and
Fire Wardens Wesley Wimmer and Claude Jack, as well as Forest Service personnel,
drafted pick-up firefighters from San Luis Obispo and the north county. Two camps
were set up and over 200 men were on the line by the end of Wednesday. The Standard Oil tank farm north of Morro Bay was threatened but no damage occurred.
Meanwhile a 65,000 acre fire was burning in southern Monterey County and numerous other fires were burning in Creston, San Luis Obispo, and Arroyo Grande. By
Thursday the Santa Rita Fire had consumed 9,000 acres with 300 men on the fire
line. Six crew leaders, a camp boss, and a sector boss were brought up from Santa
Barbara by the Forest Service. Freight trains traveling through Atascadero were
stopped and help was enlisted from railroad crews and itinerant men “riding the
rods”. Forty (40) additional men were pressed into service from Santa Maria and
transported to the fire in two trucks. One of these impressed men was Tom Gregerson, a 28 year old man from Sisquoc.
On the afternoon of Friday, the 28th, Gregerson was working the fire in a canyon at
Devil’s Gap; four miles west of Atascadero on the Atascadero/Morro Bay Road (Hwy
41 West). The exact location of the accident, and Gregerson’s assignment are not
known. Gregerson was trapped in a circle of fire. State Fire Warden R. B. Cavanaugh
was working in the vicinity and discovered Gregerson. His clothes were completely
burned off and his body was totally burned.
Harry Gray rushed his ambulance to the scene and took Gregerson to the Atascadero
Hospital where he died at 3:00 p.m. that Friday. Just before his death, he regained
consciousness for a few seconds and told the hospital staff that his parents lived in
Winnebago, Minnesota. The body was taken to Gray’s Chapel where a coroner’s inquest was held. The September 4th edition of the Atascadero News printed the verdict
of the jury in full: We, the coroner’s jury, find that Tom Gregerson met his death
Volume 1, Issue 1
from shock resulting from third degree burns suffered while fighting fire in the sixth district of the state of California. No cause of infliction of burns was ascertained, but in our opinion, they possibly resulted from either negligence or from entire lack of system or knowledge of handling men, on the part of those in charge of the firefighters and of fighting the fire. We recommend further investigation.
The Santa Rita Fire burned into Paradise Valley and the northwest end of Atascadero, destroying a home and several chicken houses and out buildings, before it was contained on Saturday,
August 29th after burning 15,000 acres. Another 50 or so men were impressed for patrol and
“mop-up” work. Over four hundred firefighters had fought the fire, only a handful with any
formal firefighting training. Mr. Gray, proprietor of Harry S. Gray Funeral Chapel and Crematorium in Atascadero, must have been profoundly affected by his involvement in the fire and
Gregerson’s accident. Saturday afternoon he drove around the fire line in a Ford truck carrying a brass handled redwood coffin. To the firefighters shock, and then delight, the coffin was
filled with much relished ice. Gray said: “Couldn’t find anything big enough for this load so I
grabbed a box from the storeroom”. Mr. Gray spent the rest of the afternoon making ice deliveries to weary firefighters.
“He was paid
30 cents per
hour by the
state for his
time on the
There is no map of the fire perimeter, but based on the acreage statements and landmark descriptions in the newspapers, the fire burned a long narrow banana shaped area between the coast just south of Cayucos, to the northwest corner of Atascadero. Strategy and tactics employed during the fire are not known for sure. One can speculate that the mention in the newspapers of two camps and the statement that Gossett, representing the state took
control of one crew and Forest Service Ranger Hayward the other, indicates that each agency pretty much “did
their own thing”. Tactics common at that time included flanking direct attack in light fuels with wet gunny sacks,
back-pumps, wire brooms, hoes, and shovels. In heavy fuels, natural and manmade lines were fired out or backfired, usually in the evening, after the winds had shifted.
Thomas Gilbert Gregerson was born on July 13, 1903 in Blooming Prairie, Minnesota to Norwegian immigrant parents Haakan Gregerson and Thora (Thompson) Gregerson. Thomas was married to Norma Gregerson who was
living in Los Angeles with their young daughter while he was in Sisquoc. The death certificate lists his occupation
as a “receiving clerk”. Thomas Gilbert Gregerson is buried in Winnebego, Minnesota. He was paid 30 cents per
hour by the state for his time on the fireline.
San Luis Obispo Daily Tribune, August 26, 27, 28, 29, 1931
Atascadero News, September 4, 1931
San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors Minutes, 1929, 1930, 1931
Death Certificate, Thomas Gilbert Gregerson, San Luis Obispo County Clerk/Recorder’s Office
California Government and Forestry – II, C. Raymond Clar, 1969
(Chief Jenkins Message continued from page 1)
We continue to move forward on a number of exciting new projects. We anticipate breaking ground on the new Creston Fire Station 43 by the end of this year. This will be a very attractive facility that has the capacity to house four apparatus and up to a crew of eight. The Avila Valley Station 62 will also break ground this year on the addition of a
third apparatus bay and lengthening of the existing bays. Paso Robles Station 30 and Cayucos Station 11 are both in
the planning process for future replacement. We are finally making some progress on our Unit Headquarters project.
The Transfer of Jurisdiction document necessary to secure bond funding for the project is almost complete. The project includes a new 15,000 sq ft facility housing the administrative offices, ECC and expanded dispatch; an entirely
new fire station facility (apparatus bays and residence); and an additional Service Center building. While we are still a
couple years out on construction it is exciting to see this long overdue project moving forward.
The shortage of fire crews on the Central Coast continues to be a major concern for our Unit. However, we have had
some positive developments in our Conservation Camp program.
Los Robles Camp - We are currently working with CDCR on the development of an Environmental Impact Report
(EIR) for the repurposing of the “boys school” to the Estrella Correctional Facility, the construction of a new Re-Entry
Facility, and the re-opening of Los Robles Camp. The plan calls for initially re-opening Los Robles as an institution
based camp with 100 level I adult inmates housed at the Estrella Correctional Facility followed by the construction of
a new stand-alone fire camp facility capable of housing up to 130 level I inmates. CDCR has received funding to begin
moving the project forward and estimates we may be able to have our Los Robles crews back up and running within
Ventura Camp – A shortage of grade eligible wards continues to be an issue at Ventura Camp. In general we have
only been able to reliably staff 3 male crews. We are now in the process of developing an agreement with the CCC to
staff 2 crews out of their new Ventura facility. A CAL FIRE Captain with the assistance of a Conservationist I would
supervise the Corps Members assigned to the crew. The CCC has agreed to screen statewide for the best possible crew
members. We hope to have this program in place this summer.
The dedication and professionalism of our staff continues to impress me. Your commitment to public service,
whether managing a large and complex emergency incident or just lending a helping hand at the simplest public service assist, is to be commended. I am extraordinarily proud of our Unit and the service we provide.
Have a safe summer!
A Word from Deputy Chief Lewin
Do we have readiness? Being ready is the most important thing we must have. We must be ready to meet our mission.
We do this by ensuring that our firefighters are properly equipped, highly trained and physically and mentally fit. We
do this by making sure we are vigilant in our fire prevention programs. We do this by making sure our support staff is
at top performance and their work is accurate and organized. We do this by making sure we are a Team. The citizens
are depending on all of us. This is what we do. This is who we are.
We have several pieces of apparatus that have been put into service; E-21, E-62 and R-21. We also have a new Cal EMA
USAR trailer with a tow vehicle currently parked at Station 30. We are expecting to receive two new Model 34 type 3
engines. These will become E3472 and E-3473. We are fortunate to have a valuable equipment committee with dedicated members who want our equipment to be the very best. I believe it is. We also have HEMs and HFEOs who doggedly work to keep our fleet moving. Make sure you tell them thanks.
We are making an effort to come up with standardized personal protection equipment. Soon you will see an SOG come
out that will outline what our personnel will wear on incidents. First and foremost the equipment must provide firefighter safety. It also needs to be reasonably priced, it needs to be uniformed. Chief Swan is moving this SOG forward.
I was proud to see our seasonals receive improved rigorous training during the Refresher Academy this year. The leadership of Captain Britton and all those that made this happen, I want to say thank you. I am confident that we have an
excellent group of firefighters, it is up to us to make sure they stay physically fit and properly trained. Let’s keep the
training effort going.
Fire activity is increasing. We will continue to aggressively attack fires. We must do this safely. We need to be ready.
New link added to the CALFIRE “are you ready” website. This site
gives the public detailed information for them to prepare for the
upcoming fire season.
Fire Safe Council
Chipping program completed in East Arroyo Grande, Nipomo.
Planning events in Station 36 and 40’s areas. Presenting
Mastication projects in the Cambria and Diablo areas.
Please submit your articles, information,
pictures, etc., to:
635 North Santa Rosa Street
San Luis Obispo, CA 93405
Email: [email protected]
To serve and safeguard the people and protect the property and resources of San Luis
Obispo County through education preparedness and emergency response.
The San Luis Obispo County Fire Department will exceed expectations and maintain
the highest standards of preparedness, training, and emergency response.
Integrity, Competence, Teamwork, Courage, Commitment
San Luis Obispo County Benevolent Association Information
The CDF Benevolent Association provides assistance to employees and their families during times of
financial need. Many families have benefited from their generosity.
The CDF/SLO County FF Benevolent Association Magic Show was held on April 25, 2010. The Magic
show raised close to $10,000 for the CDF/SLO County FF Benevolent Association. Thanks to Es, her
VIP's and Station 12 for helping make this event successful!
If you would like to make a donation to the Association, checks can be mailed to:
San Luis Obispo County Benevolent Association
Post Office Box 3095
Paso Robles, CA 93447