Tag Archives: bcfd

A Reminder of Why I Take the Pics I do

Some of my public pics this year…

I wish I could share all of the others – but some of the shoots I do are for those souls only – but still beautiful in so many ways. Just felt like sharing what I have left in this life that gives something to the area I live within…so much of my film work is cataloged at the firehouse…I hope should any of you wish to see those pics that you can go to the BCFD office and ask to be able to look through the albums in there..anything from the early 1990s through 2005 was typically taken by me…Leo Kuhnlein before that time frame…

More Pics from my Flyover 27 Years Ago

Had a few requests to add more pics from my flight and history post earlier… so these are picscan quality, and maybe someday when I am feeling frisky I will hi-res scan the negatives and see what I can get out of them.


Some tidbits for historians:
– The Hudson Rockery barn still standing behind Johnnies.
– The Olympic gas station and residence next to it (Bertetta’s property)
– Peach Cottage still standing (before the last big fire – another prior history post on the blog here)
– Easier to see the addition to Johnnie’s where the other gas station used to be…(will post those pics later)
– Post Office had not been built yet…(empty lot by Johnnies)


Tidbit for my fire department friends:
– Todd’s beautiful 1969 Camaro parked in front of the firehouse.
– That yellow blazer was Mike Lord’s rig. He was the one that got BCFD into computers before any of the other fire department’s in the county…
– Ricky Gehrmann’s rig in front of the FD (an awesome Captain from back-in-the-day)
– You can see the old 2151 being stripped and the new one being fitted in back of the station


Visiting a BCFD Old Timer – and also an old friend…

A passion project of mine for more than a few years while involved with the BCFD, was keeping track of the guys who had served that great organization. One such in particular was a former Rescue Captain (and Lockheed fireman) – Art Evans. Many moons ago he decided to pick up sticks and move to Mendocino with his wife. They had just purchased a small cafe/deli in the downtown area of the picturesque little town; coincidentally he had just received his layoff notice at Lockheed the same day his offer was accepted for the business (Lockheed laid off the entire fire department that particular day).

On an unplanned road trip and walkabout this season, I ventured through Mendocino and surprised my old friend as he was preparing the shop for a busy Friday. At first I didn’t recognize him with his long beard, but that famous gait I saw so many times running from his home at Evans Rest to the station for EVERY call started a flood of memories. After a hug and some laughs, we went outside and talked for what seemed like hours about events transpired. He mentioned the only names to stop by all these 20+ years were some of the Lockheed guys (Gene Meschi and Ed Butler).
Art keeps a wall in his restaurant with some treasures of fire department history. In this Lockheed pic we see the names we all know of Ricky Gehrmann, Steve Sanders, Ed Butler, Art and even one I knew from my CDF days with Chris Liebenthal (that’s why I tagged you Mr. Culp).

The nearby pic from the 1982 year shows a BCFD that became famous nationwide for the events they partook in that storm year. We reminisced of the 10 or so names shown there that have since passed away. We caught up from what I knew of everyone else.

Typically I am the one that recalls the old adventures of my tenure, but Art actually reminded me of an entire storyline I had forgotten – but had apparently participated in: the wedding debacle in Monterey from more than a couple decades past…Where the likes of certain parties (unnamed here but named in our talk) destroyed an entire hotel room and nearby facilities in celebration of his marriage. One event he recalled, was a particular young gentleman in a tux, that while holding a champagne bottle decided he wanted to meet the ladies in the pool – two stories below, so he jumped from the balcony to introduce himself. I do recall most of the furniture ending up elsewhere…fuzzy memories of those two days slowly swirled back. Art mentioned he was permanently banned from that hotel – even though he had stayed elsewhere. We can laugh about it now though…

Art spent some years with the Mendocino Fire Department, instituting hazardous materials training and programs like he was always known for. He hopes that maybe some of those names we mentioned will pass through town and visit him someday. As I walked away the timing was so ironic: a fire call had just gone off for the small volunteer department. A business owner nearby ran out the door with his fire coat, hopped into his truck and drove to the station as a siren sounded from one of their responding vehicles across town (the man’s wife smiled as she conveyed to me “another fire call”)…if only I could tell her how I understood.

Art doesn’t touch computers so he won’t see this, but if anyone wants to get a hold of him – look for the Cultured Affair off one of the side streets in downtown Mendocino. I told him I would be tagging a few names in my FB post as a way of him saying hello to his long lost friends.

BCFD Audio History, Part 1

While doing the research for writing the BCFD history book over 20 years ago, I recorded interviews with local fire department legends such as Hoot Cress, Pep Piccioni and Johnny Holm. I have been sifting through a plethora of wav files, and decided on a couple to get the archive started here…the first one reminds all of us how the stories we heard a hundred times never get old – these guys created a fire department from scratch – and at a time when it was truly a volunteer organization. This clip is Hoot talking about the main fire station in town – and how it used to look a little different than it does today…


Meadowood Fire: June 9, 1986

I have been asked many times why I chose the path I did of the fire service when I had reached the age to drive. Including on a winter evening in 1987 at my interview to get on the Boulder Creek Fire Department (the infamous panel that included Dan Kuhnlein and Pep Rocca). My answer follows in a short story version, but this time I get to share the pictures of that day few people get to see outside the family.

This is the home I grew up in that my dad built, and (as most of you know and visit) has been called Meadowood since inception c. 1973, for our now 5th generation family ranch (1st:great grandma Lyon, 2nd:Grandparents Robechaud, 3rd:mom & dad, 4th:me, 5th:my kids).
Top pic was winter 1985, bottom pic is June 1986.

We had a large family reunion on Saturday June 7th, held in part to honor the matriarch of my mom’s family who also lived on Meadowood. Some of you have heard my story of not being able to sleep the night of June 8th and into the morning of the 9th (which I had never experienced that issue really). That Monday was finals day at SLV High School, and without divulging too much into how miserable my freshman year already was – I tried to convince my dad I wanted nothing to do with school that day. I was tired and something had kept me up all night. He said no way. The parents were building another home at our subdivision at the Boulder Creek Golf Course so I could not be home alone and sick, especially during finals. We will never know how things might have been different had I stayed home and slept, but we all left to be about our busy days by 8 AM. At approximately 10:34 AM, this was the scene that had come to change our lives indefinitely (taken by a relative staying at the other Meadowood house above ours).

The smoke was seen all the way to Scotts Valley. Now, I had heard the smoke rumor ever since that day, but it never really sunk in until 20 years later; A gentleman walked into my video store in Ben Lomond and handed me a picture he took from the Safeway shopping center on that June 9th, and sure enough there was the column of smoke (was a strange trigger for me to see a version of something you thought you had seen from every possible angle). It was already a hot summer morning so the fire was spreading around the nearby grasslands. People were stopping on the highway and a bleacher-style row of gawkers filled the hill above our burning home.

Pictured here was part of the first wave of firemen from Boulder Creek to arrive, and unfortunately within short order a fireman was injured and had to be taken to Dominican (I have always thought this picture shows him being helped away from where he was overcome).

The alarms were sent through most of north SC county for help, and there were so many actions taken that day and afterwards by the firemen and officers that could be a book all in themselves. The only one I will mention here at the moment is Ricky Gehrmann. I thank you for everything you did that day, not sure if I ever conveyed that enough (that is why you have always had my support for everything in our time shared at BCFD). Having been on the other side for the next 20 years, I know things go wrong on big fires, one of those always have/always will kind of things. People got hurt, there never seemed to be enough water, quite a few animals died both in and around the house, and in the end – the entire home, barn and surrounding outbuildings were destroyed.

This was taken some time later as the fire worked its way around the buildings, this is the barn and stalls.

To keep this from prolonging into a mesh of fire, personal and Meadowood histories, sufficed to say my path was made clear to me on that day. It took 18 months to figure out how to get on BCFD, followed by 18 years of doing something I loved every day. Meadowood was rebuilt, grandma passed away 6 months later, and life as they say continued.

I often think I should find another way to help those affected by fire, just not sure how yet. I eavesdropped on a conversation between two dads at my daughter’s soccer game this fall, one of the guys was talking about losing their home in a firestorm in Southern California a few years back. The other guy was asking the worst questions you could to someone who has lost so much. When I interjected with questions only those that have gone through it would understand – they were taken aback. He opened up into a flood of things he apparently has never been able to share with someone. Hmmmm…anyway – this picture represents the next 30 days of salvaging and receiving help from those that stepped up when they didn’t have to…Todd Hitchman is crouched down digging next to me. He also got on the same fire department just before me.

Thanks for reading…guess it helps to share sometimes. Plenty of stories from that day I have been privy to, including ones from Sam, Bud, Scott Lipperd, Randy Robison, Ricky Gehrmann, Chris Harper, Carl Kustin, Tim West and a few others. I thank everyone that was there, even the engine that would become my secret love in life – 2110; your first big fire, and if it is any solace I was one of the most vocal proponents for YEARS to get your hosebeds changed to a modern distribution so days like my home burning would see you at the fire, not at a hydrant..*wink wink*.

Peach Cottage fire, June 16th 1989; some town & FD history

As a preface to this story I feel one has to understand what led up to this unfortunate morning that still leaves an empty property scar on the downtown and the loss of someone’s life. As a location reference the picture below was taken by me just prior to the fire. The Peach Cottage restaurant has the red metal roof, lower left corner (coincidentally you can see the primary engine that would attack the fire backing into the fire station down the street).

As a further intro as to why I picked this story (of the thousands I could write) is I still come across those on the street that ask the obvious questions like “What was here at this (only) empty lot before?” or “When did this happen?” In further leading up to this event, the restaurant itself had several fires that were suspicious in nature (and under my own accord; not representing any agency or person – someone was trying to torch the place to the ground). Here are two photos of the fire that happened six months prior to the conflagration.
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Pictured here are Assistant Chief Robustelli & myself.

Some great history in this pic, shown are Chief Bud Tomlin, Asst. Chief Robustelli, Captain John Grimaldi, myself and firefighter Dave Scruggs. The gentleman wearing the SFFD jacket is Fire Commissioner Ray Landi (retired from San Francisco Fire Department – hopefully someday I will share the stories from Ray and his epic days at SFFD).
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Well, whatever little fire devil was inhabiting the then vacant and boarded up restaurant finally succeeded on the morning of June 16th, 1989. Shortly before 3 am, the large siren on top of the firehouse and the pagers that summon the BCFD staff were sounding with their respective alarms, and as can happen with early morning fires, no one sees it until it has a significant head start. I was already not sleeping well because coincidentally there were two big things happening that weekend causing me restless moments; my high school graduation for the class of ’89, and the assistant chief’s daughter was getting married, of which I was recording for them on film. Prior to the policy of minimum age requirements changing at Boulder Creek Fire, there were several firefighters (including me) that had become active responders when we were 16 (a tradition dating back to the 70s). But once I heard that one of the main buildings downtown was on fire, I had to make that choice of trying to rest before the big graduation or going on a huge fire – well, anyone that serves knows what I did next.

As I drove into town I could see the fire’s glow from roughly a 1/2 mile out. I got onto the second engine responding (2111) which was assigned to protecting the Forest Corners building (now housing Jenna Sue’s Cafe, Oh Suzannah’s and the BC Bulletin) and the residence behind the burning restaurant. The entire restaurant was so heavily involved, the flames were extending all the way out to the double yellow lines on Central Avenue. As with the controlled chaos that can happen on fires of this size, I got to be on a large hoseline by myself for what seemed like forever. Now the sad part of me being on a hose and there never being enough staffing when a fire is that big – is no one was available to take pictures…hence the lack of any here. There were agencies responding from near and far, and by the time the sun finally arose, the magnitude of this spectacle was being seen by all: a carcass of what was once a two story building that had maybe 100 square feet of attic left and not much else (becomes relevant later). Nine hours after the initial call, the officers came around to find those of us that were graduating and said in unprintable words – to get to school and finish what we started four years earlier.

To finish my personal story of this weekend, I attended grad night until six the following morning, then got cleaned up to go attend the wedding and reception I spoke of earlier. When I made it home and collapsed into my bed I had been awake for just under 40 hours. But, there is a whole other chapter to this story that would unfold right before my eyes several weeks later…to be continued…

That 1990 Bronco crash on Hwy 9

The reason I write about this one was it gave me a wake-up call as to the personal memories one might incur being a firefighter. Nothing significant regarding local history or for that matter – anyone’s history besides that lady driving the Ford and myself, will be remembered.

As so many of those Bill Curtis narrations begin on A&E; “It was a normal February Tuesday morning…” The call was for a vehicle rollover with deputies on scene relaying that a lady was trapped in the vehicle and losing consciousness. As a personal plug for the BCFD, those early 90s had some of the best vehicle extrication guys in the business; they themselves had been taught in part by the amazing staff at Scotts Valley Fire (SVFD had some of the best experience in the state since Highway 17 – their district – had no barriers for longer than the amount of lives lost should have allowed). I was driving from my house and when I got there a few minutes later I was ordered to get in the vehicle with her while Stuart Anderson and Gil Goode managed the jaws of life tool work.

I had only been on the department for a couple of years at that point, so this was my first recollection of being in a vehicle alone with a patient while the chaos outside transpires (the sounds of tearing apart a car and raising collapsed vehicles while actually being inside the car are virtually unheard in training). Those old Broncos are useless (1967 Bronco I believe) when it comes to holding weight on the roof so when this one rolled over, it collapsed onto the lady’s head and pinned it to where she was barely able to breathe. I crawled in and grabbed onto her hand while talking to her. She could not see me as her eyes were jammed against the roof/pavement so she could only trust what I was telling her as to what was happening.

As the cribbing was placed and the jaws were finding their place to work the magic they have for years prior and since, her neck began to crack from the weight shifting and she dug her nails into my arm whilst screaming nothing I can write here. As we began to free her and her other hand was able to grab onto me, the sounds of her beginning to breathe normally again were refreshing. We managed to get her removed from the seat without further injury and I got her person transferred to the guys waiting outside the car (pictured here).

To make a long story short, her nails had left marks in my arm that were there for several days. I looked at them trying to realize I had hopefully helped in some fashion, but I guess the point of this whole story was it helped me realize that even when the call was done, what stays with you makes you think how there is no place else in the world you would rather be. Boulder Creek may only be a small fire district of 9,000 souls or so, but I loved every day of those 18 years…always will. Here is a pic of a 60s Ford Bronco as it looks after being inverted…

BCFD history from that Essay magazine

The rest of the book (all 30 chapters, numerous rosters, indexes and archiving) was published for the FD, and that Essay magazine posted one chapter – which I thought was nice of them to allow; it was my first real attempt at writing a whole book…don’t laugh at my prose please -)