"Local Personalities"

Fire Fighters of Station 58

by Maggie Van Ostrand

Captain Dean Boller and Engineer Don Duncan comprise one of the three 2-man fire fighting teams which keep Pine Mountain Club safe.
One team is always at the firehouse, day and night, working 48-consecutive-hour shifts.

Asked if there's anything residents can do to help, both Dean and Don first gave credit to some of the retired fire fighter residents of Pine Mountain Club, and other volunteers, who already have helped when needed. Second, they ask that people dial 911 and not the firehouse itself. The reason for this is that 911 can immediately dispatch ambulances and other emergency vehicles from sometimes distant locations and simultaneously alert Station 58.

"Kern County," says Dean, "has more fire fighters on Type 1 National Incident Management Teams than any othr local fire department, incuding Los Angeles."

By the way, you should hear how they're awakened, if a late-night emergency occurs. It's not a siren. It's like a humongous foghorn, louder than the Queen Mary's. In fact, it might even be heard over in England.

One of the myths about fire fighters is that they slide down a pole. That would be very difficult to do at Station 58, since it's a single story building.

Another myth is that fire trucks have to be red. "A new study proves that white is easier to see at night," advised Dean, adding, "Santa Barbara also has white fire trucks with a blue stripe. Some fire trucks are different shades of red and some even have gold leafing." Maybe Beverly Hills? or Scottsdale AZ?

Station 58 houses Dean and Don (and their replacement team) for their on-duty time, and was originally a single-wide mobile home. There are two beds in the back room, divided by closets. The front room is the office, inspected every October by a survey team to check the condition of the furnishings.

Two brand-new recliner chairs and two new mattresses were recently supplied to their Station by the County, sometimes referred to as "The Republic of Kern."

"This is the first time in the 25 years I've been here," says Don, that we've ever gotten anything new. Shows you how bad the old stuff was." Don pointed to a dented tin pot on the stove. "The only thing that's been here longer than I have is that coffeepot."

Funds for the TV, VCR, and computer are supplied internally by Fire Department 's Welfare and Benefit, in conjunction with the County, which uses the electronic equipment to teach training courses, and fire prevention.

Yet another myth to dispel is that their food comes from taxpayer money. It doesn't. Each firefighter buys his own food. So if you're ever in a Von's and overhear this question that shoppers frequently ask firefighters with a full market basket, "Say, how much of that stuff am I buying for you?," the answer is a big fat "None."

Speaking of food, Don quit his hobby of hunting at the same time he quit eating red meat. "No point in hunting if you're not going to utilize the meat," he advises. His all-time favorite meal is clam chowder, which he used to make himself right there on the firehouse's small stove. "Now," he grins, "I often use Mama Campbell's."

When Don is at his southwest Bakersfield home with wife Debbie, he likes her specialty, breaded chicken with pasta and a little parmesan. They were married 15 years ago by Pine Mountain's Pastor Dow, and have two older children: Tyson, who lives in Bakersfield, and Danelle, who lives in Houston. Both children are from former marriages.

Dean met his wife, Kimberly, in high school. How long have they been married? He smiles and says, "It'll be 20 years on August 18th." Their children are Jennifer, 16, and Russ, 14. When Dean is at his home in northwest Bakersfield, he enjoys his wife's chicken enchiladas.

When they're not on duty, they each like to watch NASCAR, especially when Kevin Harvick races; he's the son of another Kern County fire fighter. Don plays a mean guitar, a Stratocaster, a gift from his wife who played clarinet in a marching band. Dean hunts, fishes, and dirt bikes. He also enjoys listening to Don play the guitar which he sometimes does at the firehouse.

Both men highly praise their wives, and the wives of all firefighters. "When you realize we're on duty a third of our lives, it takes a very understanding, confident, special kind of woman to put up with that," says Dean.

Don adds, "When we're on duty here at the fire house, we do the cooking and cleaning. And we make our own beds, and scrub the toilet."

When asked if their housekeeping routine could be included in this article, Don said, "Write, 'Your mama doesn't work here.'"

If she did, she wouldn't get much nozzle time.

Reprinted by permisson of Maggie Van Ostrand

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