Woodlake Fire District celebrates a century of risking it all

Kids and parents gather at the fire station for community games during the March 16 century celebration for the fire district.(Woodlake Fire District)

Woodlake Fire District celebrates its 100th anniversary, highlighting its efforts to protect locals from various emergencies

WOODLAKE – The city was fired up to celebrate a century of service from the fire district, after firefighters have continuously extinguished flames, handled hazardous materials, provided medical assistance and perhaps even rescued kittens from trees, to keep up with the changing times.

The fire district was honored with food, snow cones and appearances from important guests such as District 4 Supervisor Eddie Valero during their celebration on Saturday, March 16.

“It was a great turnout. We had probably over 200 people show up,” Fire Chief Anthony Perez said. “We’ve offered station tours, fire engine tours, and just invited the community to come visit the fire station to see what we’re all about and see the changes that have happened throughout the years.”

According to Perez, some of the major changes the fire district has made in recent years is through the expansion of their staffing. The district is a combination department, meaning that they have a mixture of full-time firefighters, reserve firefighters and volunteer firefighters working to protect the city.

“Without the reserves and volunteers it would be difficult (to operate),” Perez said. “That’s what makes the combination fire department work.”

City Manager Ramon Lara explained that the fire district has been a great asset to the town. He noted that the city and the fire district work closely together to care for Woodlake residents.

“While the District may be a small one their impact in the community is huge,” Lara said “What is great about the District and their volunteers is how they are willing to go above and beyond daily to help out the community.”

Perez explained that the fire department has been recruiting new people such as volunteers and reserve firefighters in recent years to provide service for Woodlake’s expanding community and the changing times.

While fire departments and fire districts used to respond to mostly fires, now the fire district has evolved into an “all risk” fire district which means that they respond to all sorts of emergencies such as fires, hazardous materials, medical emergencies, and most recently, flooding.

“(During the floods) it was all hands on deck. Public Works, the Police Department, Fire Department, everybody pitched in and there were a few sleepless nights,” Perez said. 

Another part of being an all risk fire district is keeping training and equipment up to date with the most recent information and technology. This allows the firefighter to be prepared for any type of emergency.

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Kids enjoy snowcones at the Woodlake Fire District’s 100-year celebration on March 16. (Woodlake Fire District)

“We were able to have a training tower built at the fire department where we can practice those types of incidents (such as) searches, rescue, ventilation and forcible entry. That’s helped that a lot,” Perez said.

Not only does the fire district respond to all types of emergencies, but they are also available to respond to emergencies outside Woodlake in the event that CAL Fire were to need help with other emergencies in the area.

However the fire district wasn’t always this way. According to Perez, it wasn’t common to see all risk fire districts and departments until 30 or 40 years ago.

“It has changed a lot. I can remember, in the 80s and before that, the district only went to fire and not medical (emergencies). That changed pretty quickly in the mid 90s,” Perez said. 

With all the different emergencies and changing times, Perez thinks one of the biggest factors that helps the fire district move forward is community support.

“We definitely appreciate everybody’s support. We’ve got a lot of good cooperators, the City Police Department and the school district. What’s nice about a small town is we all support each other,” Perez said. “If somebody needs something, even if it’s to pass out stickers or talk about lighter safety. We love going to different events and I think we’re a pretty tight knit community.”

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