This information may not be of any significance to about 99.8 percent of you reading this, however, Bakersfield Fire Station 6 is the busiest fire engine company in Kern County by calculated call volume from January through August.
Fire Station 6 is located at Brundage Lane and Union Avenue. On average, Engine 6 responds to approximately 14 incidents per 24-hour shift. Incidents that may be something such as a call to assist an elderly person who has fallen or an incident as arduous as being involved in a large structure fire or rescue response of long duration requiring numerous hours of intense effort while combined with drastically hot summers and freezing winter temperatures. Basically, the crew at Station 6 works exhausting hours with little to no sleep during any given shift.
Interestingly enough, Station 6, while extremely busy, has numerous fire companies within the Bakersfield Fire Department who run a close second. With approximately 41,000 emergency response calls in 2018, it proves the remarkable volume of incidents placed on Bakersfield firefighters throughout the year and throughout a career of firefighting. It’s not unusual for a new probationary firefighter working for the Bakersfield Fire Department to actualize more fire and rescue incidents in a six-month span than most firefighters throughout the state may accomplish in a two-year period. They will obtain more experience and firefighting/rescue knowledge with a hands-on approach due to the intense workload and volume of emergency medical incidents, fires and rescues. This creates a Bakersfield firefighter who is acutely competent and skillful at his/her chosen profession. I guess by now you may recognize that I am proud of your Bakersfield firefighters.
In the last 10 years, the Bakersfield Fire Department response numbers have increased beyond 51 percent. Nevertheless, the increase of emergencies and calls for service is a trend that will most likely continue due to an increase in population, and coupled with other concerns such as the number of vacant homes, abandoned buildings, etc.
Honestly, first responders are fixers. It’s in their DNA. They’ll make it work.
The irony in all of this is that we have a solution and a problem when it comes to first responders and what they do. The solution is that in any major or terrifying emergency, we must call upon local first responders to engage and mitigate severe incidents. The problem is the cumulative effect it has upon them over many years of service to the community.
As a firefighter with over 27 years of experience, I understand the sleep deprivation and physical and mental exhaustion they endure. More importantly is the mental/emotional trauma of the tragic events that continually roll through their subconscious. Post-traumatic stress is real. The horrific scenes firefighters and other first responders handle is real. The toll it takes on them, and at times their families, is real.
As Fire Chief of the Bakersfield Fire Department, I made a pledge to do my utmost to protect our firefighters with dependable equipment and resources that will safeguard them as well as the public we serve. While that is hugely important, there is another element of protection that our department members who along with the Risk Management Department view as our responsibility. We have made a commitment to the physical, mental and emotional well-being of our firefighters. While the department’s Health and Wellness Task Force is currently in its infancy stage, we have individuals who are devoted to never forget those who suffer through or from various physical, mental and emotional trauma whether past or present.
Today, as we commemorate the 18th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, I assure you that I, along with all first responders. will “Never Forget” the lives lost and what happened to our country that dreadful morning in New York. However, let us also never forget those first responders currently on the front lines, such as firefighters, law enforcement, emergency dispatchers and emergency medical services (EMS) as they continue to battle emergencies with perseverance and valor while mentally and emotionally absorbing copious incidents that test them both physically and mentally.
Anthony Galagaza is the fire chief and 27-year veteran of the Bakersfield Fire Department.