A special celebration at Castle Airport on Saturday recognized 25 years of fire protection by Cal Fire in Merced County.
Members of Merced County's Board of Supervisors and other area officials were on hand for the event, which marked the 2 ½ decades that the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has contracted with the county to provide emergency services to its unincorporated areas, along with fire assistance throughout the region.
Saturday's event was a chance for Cal Fire officials to showcase their equipment, vehicles and many of the features the department uses to address emergencies. The department's Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting Program, Hazardous Materials Program, Fire Suppression and Command Program and Emergency Operations Center were highlighted.
"Cal Fire has a lot of intricacies that we bring, in respect that we're a statewide agency, so when something happens in Merced County, we can pull in the resources we need to assist Merced County Fire (Department) in that cooperative agreement," said Nancy B. Koerperich, chief of the Merced County Fire Department and unit chief for Cal Fire's Mariposa-Madera-Merced Unit.
District 2 Supervisor Hub Walsh said the relationship between county officials and Cal Fire has been a positive one during his time on the board. Walsh said Cal Fire has worked with the county through difficult economic times, and has helped pursue grants to assist with the purchase of crucial equipment.
Walsh witnessed many of the emergency response demonstrations given by Cal Fire firefighters during Saturday's program. He said he was most impressed by a rescue demonstration in which firefighters used air bags to free a dummy trapped under massive stone slabs.
"They've been a good partner in the provision of protective services to our community," Walsh said.
District 4 Supervisor Deidre Kelsey, who's been on the board since 1995, said the overall service by Cal Fire has been positive over the years. "They've been very proactive in putting together a long-range plan, and helping us achieve the level of service that we have now," she said.
Merced County Fire Department-Cal Fire has 20 stations countywide, about 80 full-time fire personnel, and 240 volunteers, according to Cal Fire Capt. Jeremy Rahn.
City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or email@example.com.
Cal Fire has about 150 cooperative agreements with cities and counties throughout the state, providing fire protection services for those regions. In addition to Merced County, Cal Fire has fire protection agreements with the cities of Gustine, Dos Palos, and Livingston.