Firefighters as heroes
Firefighters are my heroes. When I was a kid, my papa was a volunteer fireman. His bright red Pendleton shirt with the gold embroidered #7 remains vivid. In fact, I still have that “dress uniform” for Eureka’s Myrtle Avenue Fire Station somewhere in my closet. Both of our sons wore it briefly in their teenage years … long after their grandpa was dead.
Among my cherished memories of papa’s 1950s firefighting era was an all-town gala at the Eureka Vets Building where every volunteer fire company assembled for a grand march before their dance.
Sitting in the balcony, heart roused by some John Philip Sousa march, I was captivated watching all seven of the Eureka companies parade around the dance floor in an ever-expanding spiral. I don’t remember actually identifying papa in his red shirt but I do recall the thrill of pride seeking his face in the crowd.
My vision of what a firefighter was mostly had to do with that grand march and though my papa was a hero to me then, it wasn’t until I was in college that I truly understood.
That was the day my family’s home caught fire with the entire upstairs destroyed. I watched a firefighter climb a ladder to my brother’s room. The anxiety of raging flames and a missing 9-year-old brother is seared in my mind.
Yep, little bro Rob’s still with us, none the worse for wear. He’s a seasonal firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service near our parents’ summer place in Trinity County.
Both the pomp and the circumstance of firefighting remain vivid to me today: I am grateful for all firefighters do. Actually, not merely grateful, but filled with awe.
Today’s awesome hero is closer to home. Chris Landry grew up in Glen Ellen in the Marty Drive neighborhood, attending local schools.
As he puts it, “I was proud to be a Dunbar Demon,” evoking a smile from yours truly about our school’s prior non-PC mascot. When Chris was just 14, he started hanging out at the Glen Ellen firehouse, welcomed and encouraged by then-chief Win Smith.
Later, Chris joined the Sonoma Explorer Scouts fire program. Chris readily admits that he was inspired by “an amazing group of firefighters. I learned from the legends,” he says. Along with Win, Chris praises the Mulas and Uboldi families and his friends Jason Webber, Dave Stork, Chris Jurasek, Nils Derickson, Bobby Norrbom and others.
Chris attended Santa Rosa Junior College while living at the Glen Ellen firehouse. When he finished EMT training, he joined the Sonoma Fire Department.
Today, Chris is one of our Glen Ellen volunteers serving as director of the firefighters’ medical training program here. But his volunteer duties in Glen Ellen are a busman’s holiday from his official job: he’s a fire chief in the Oakland Division where he was hired in 2000. He says he’s in a “difficult neighborhood” and I imagine he sees a lot of tragedy and turmoil. He’s proud to be able to help folks in Oakland and happy to return home to the paradise of Glen Ellen.
Chris and his wife, Catarina, bought the beautiful Calabasas Creek Ranch of the late Dorothy (aka Love) Spratt and her husband, Jack, a few years back.
Our current fire chief, Peter Van Fleet, feels that Chris is one of those people who “is destined to ride in fire engines” and our chief is grateful for folks like Chris. Stacia Derickson speaks of Chris with profound and heartfelt honor.
So, on behalf of Chris Landry (who now is preparing to treat his fellow workers with ice cream, a “penalty” for firefighters whose names are in the news) I offer my grateful thanks to all firefighters. The dinner and dance is their showcase, but it’s the daily sacrifices and dedication that we all praise. Wednesday night, if you’re watching the fireworks beneath that gorgeous full moon, say a little prayer of thanks to these brave men and women. I will.
Share your good news in Glen Ellen. Call 996-5995, write me at P.O. Box 518, GE 95442. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Glen Ellen chatter rarely requires timeliness; however, if your news does, contact me at least three weeks before the run date.