Four probationary firefighters were promoted to full firefighter status at the weekly Thursday night meeting of the Rainbow Volunteer Fire Department on March 5. Assistant Chief Rick Moramarco delivered the department’s newest fire truck before the meeting where he pinned badges on the most recent group of volunteers to finish training requirements.
According to Captain Jeff Weaver, “The new fire truck is smaller than a regular fire truck, so firefighters with a Class C license can drive it,” whereas a Class B license is required to drive the other trucks. The new truck holds 400 gallons of water and carries three firefighters. Because of its shorter length, this truck can reach areas the bigger trucks cannot.
Although part of the North County Fire Protection District, the Rainbow Fire Department is staffed by volunteers, only four of whom actually live in the district (in Rainbow). The local volunteers – Chief Bruce Fried (an emergency medical technician [EMT] instructor at Palomar College), Captain Weaver (an engineer with the San Marcos Fire Department), engineer Jim Beebe (a fire protection inspector with North County Fire) and firefighter Robert Williamson (a machinist who works in Escondido) – go on emergency calls when they are home.
Rainbow Fire Department was chartered in 1967 and its current building was opened in 1983 at 2309 Rainbow Valley Blvd. The volunteers go on an average of 25 calls a month. Less than 10 percent of the calls are fire-related, while 70 to 80 percent are medical emergencies including traffic accidents. When the North County Fire crew at the Pala Mesa Fire Station is available, its firefighters and ambulance respond along with any available Rainbow volunteers.
There are currently 30 out-of-district volunteers who are asked to spend three eight-hour shifts at the Rainbow station each month. The department’s goal is to have at least one firefighter at the station between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. each day. These volunteers, many of whom are planning to become professional firemen, are expected to have EMT training or be enrolled in an EMT course. Once or twice a year, a structured training academy is held for new out-of-district recruits.
The training for in-district volunteers, while not as intense as an academy, includes basic training in first aid and firefighting. The training is hands-on as well as in the classroom and covers the different types of fire, use of ladders, hand tools, fire extinguishers and fire hydrants, pulling hose and cutting brush.
According to Assistant Chief Moramarco, who is the longest serving volunteer with more than 33 years in the department, local volunteers are expected to “be available to go on calls at all hours of the day when they are home, be willing to work and learn” as well as to attend the Thursday night training sessions. The department does pay for some training expenses. He added, “Firefighting is still pretty much a manual job. It’s not all glory.” Volunteers need to be at least 18 years old and in good physical condition.
Training is led by the volunteers themselves, including Moramarco, who is an engineer with North County Fire. All volunteers are required to fill out an application and, after completing training requirements, undergo a physical exam and background check. More local volunteers of all ages are needed and encouraged to drop by the fire station, especially on Thursday nights.
Anyone interested in volunteering can also call the station at (760) 723-2026 to talk to a firefighter or leave a message.
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