Tag Archives: boulder creek fire department

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


A Valley History of One Dude That I Think More Should Know About…

There is this dude I have been acquainted with since 1986, and since this dude has become well-known these last 30 years in the SLV – I figured it was time someone account for some backstory about him (and undeservedly me)…and since history seems to be a thing with me and my writings here and elsewhere – here goes. “Dude” works for this story because that is what we called each other, plus – it was the 80s and Sean Penn’s Spicoli had made the word mainstream long before Jeff Bridges did.

I was this lowly scrawny freshman trying to survive his obligatory semester of weight training at SLV. And in this same class was this tough, outspoken, obligatory lift-this-weight-NOW-or-regret-it strong sophomore that could pass for a senior. For some reason this dude took me on as a personal project to try and help me on my path of looking more like a muscular man instead of the twig that was walking through the weight room door. In retrospect though, I think Coach Hansen – yes the SLV legend – assigned him to fix this glowing example of missing masculinity. Now two things could strike anyone watching from the proverbial spectator seats of this months-long spectacle; 1. I looked like the wind could break me in half and, 2. Being a freshman in the 80s was truly encapsulated in every John Hughes masterpiece, and I was undoubtedly the geek character. SLV still had a smoking and chewing section that was undisputedly the grossest place on Earth – sufficed to say I was not welcome in that cool kid area. But the weight room was where everyone was allowed to be together…figures.

Over the course of those months and finally into the home stretch of wishing June had arrived 3,400 pounds of weights earlier, this older soul found numerous ways to motivate me. He did it without ever forwarding condescension or being mean though, so much so that even with my changing young brain I could see something special in how this person interacted with others, and how easy it appeared for him to lead someone down the right path. I actually looked and felt better about myself, and I can imagine a great deal of you can understand how difficult that was to achieve in high school. You can probably guess which one I am here….



Fast-forward some years past high school and college; into my now burgeoning career within the fire service for Boulder Creek. I made it a path of mine to attend every possible incident and to become quite comfortable with patient care on medicals. One particular evening a call came out at the golf course of a lady in need of emergency care, and I was the primary patient person that evening. Little did I know this particular lady was also a medical professional that knew more than I ever would about patient care. Also unbeknownst to me was that she was a beloved relative of this dude I have been writing about. Very rarely do emergency care providers in the field get feedback regarding their skills afterwards, but this dude tracked me down some time later and relayed some things that needed to be said about my care of her. To this day and through my 20 years of service, I don’t think anyone has summarized a more professional breakdown of how well and proper my care was of her. It felt like one of those moments in a mob movie when the made guy tells our protagonist that he gets a free pass whenever he needs it – no questions. But in this case, one dude was telling another dude thank you with such sincerity and depth that only those two living it – can actually understand.

Fast forward a few more years and this dude becomes a manager at a local non-profit center, fulfilling a work ethic and leadership style that had manifested long before. Seventeen years later, his tough exterior carried an undoubtedly trying career of proving his worth, both personally and professionally into what would become. As our kids grew up attending Boulder Creek Elementary together we would sometimes sit by those big redwoods and talk of life and such; all while waiting for the next generation to run up to us after the bell and remind us that we are “old”.

This year he then tackled one more hurdle of vying for the big position in the company as to help guide and direct one of the most well-known community organizations into the next decade for the SLV – and he got it! All the while, when I would visit his center to drop off recycling, we would talk as if the years had never passed and that even though we both had families and those years of life between us – he still treated me like a real friend. I even tried to take some quality pics of him playing music various times in the SLV, but he married into a family that has a much better photographer than me – so he is covered there. And even in my suffering of late to such depths, he still shakes my hand and says we can talk about whatever it is and make it better. Even though I will never bother him with my stuff, he has proven to me, from that first day of walking through the weight room door to this most recent moment of walking into his center – the SLV has one hell of a good man running things…just thought you should know.

Matt Harris is that dude, the Valley Women’s Club is who he works for, and for 30 years he has fought the good fight and deserves all of the rewards that will continue his way…thanks Matt.


A night of gratitude, feminine inspiration and reflection..

Understanding these three months of absence may lean one towards a fill-in-the-blanks post, I instead swayed towards the fun of this evening and to share the rawness of me in this turmoil of sadness, self-doubt and personal hatred. I want this as a posting of gratitude for the feminine strength in so many things and for a small listing of phrases I captured.

My loathe never inhibits my wish to still give smiles…and with regards to finally writing again I have actually written two really good pieces on SLV history and social happenings in the SLV since dad died, but I did not push them through to here yet. In the published world though, my editor printed several of my pieces including (to my surprise) an unedited placement on the front newspaper page about the BC Brewery fire (with how I wrote the article I thought sure it would get lambasted by the exclusion process that writer’s lament in journalism)…I hope readers got something from it.


Tonight was about finding inspiration through souls known and unknown to hopefully help me get out of this funk that has enveloped me since January. The Cremer House once again proved to the Valley and to me how packed and fun a social center can be on a Saturday night, without the dive feel or career inebriates. One of the bartenders, who we will call Hannah Rose for this piece, came right out with this phrase that helped spurn all of my writing after I told her I was looking for ideas: “I like listening, I just can’t hear.” Obviously the context was meant in that moment – but then I thought how perfectly that sums up so many miscommunications in daily life – whether in relationships or friendships or even at work. Before she would tell me her name – her now seeing I was a writing – she said to just call her “the really cute girl”. I loved that she said it in such a way that you knew she was not being egotistical or vain – she was just saying something nice about herself but in a believable way. I thought how amazing that would be if we could all find something nice to say about ourselves to strangers when asked. Yet with how much loathe I have felt about myself lately with the recent loss of things both in family and in heart – I am not sure that I could be as generous to me. But the repeated words of the two feminine healers in my life that I respect so deeply in this realm (Hannah and Charmian), ring in my head again and again about self-worth and how amazing I reportedly am, or could be anyway.

As a wonderful friend wandered into the Cremer for her first time, she found the only empty bar stool was right next to me. Julie writes also and I gained her acquaintance through Charmian; they both being talented fire dancers these five years prior. Be sure to check her great drinking adventures at The Happy Hour Blog . Something I have always loved is telling people about something they are unfamiliar with in the SLV; whether it be fun adventures, great food or in this case – drinking possibilities. I only imbibe upon the Kombuchas when writing here but I found ways to parlay some fun ideas her way, myself having tried the nitro tapped items on the menu months before. Her humor has always made me smile – and after she had tried several brews the next quote happened for me from her: “It all tastes good now.” She made me aware without even trying that possibly, just maybe – after having enough hard lessons about love and loss in life, it all seems good now.


The topic of age arrived as I shared with her my years of writing bits about the dating and social scene in the SLV, where immediately our next phrase of interest arrived (of which I also hope to read about on her blog): “The double nickel equals a perfect 10”. If I could trademark that phrase for all the ladies turning 55, I bet you I could make a few cents…or sense to a few. Speaking of age in the opposite direction – I watched Taylor Rae perform last week – and she is one of those talents you just know will be on the Billboard charts someday…her voice is like nothing I have heard from our little Valley…and she works at the Cremer House. I pointed her out to Julie and said there is another feminine powerhouse to reckon the world with. This is a pic I took of her while she sang a beautifully sad song at Casa Nostra last week.


I had already picked a few gorgeous roses from my garden in the hopes of imparting some joy upon a lucky few tonight. Hannah, Julie and her partner-in-blog were recipients of those beauties that bring a smile to many a lady every day. Some ladies who don’t know me have looked suspiciously upon their gift in past pay-it-forward-givings – but I always clear the air immediately as being a non-threat…and in this case it was simple as I let Hannah Rose know I am way too old for that “really cute girl”, and that a rose is just a rose for a Rose. This pic is of Hannah entertaining the crowd…


Thank you ladies for a fun evening, and especially to Julie for listening to my learning curve stories of choosing my closest friend in this world to be that who was my beloved; Charmian.

I stopped at Masood’s to say hello to that property baron and storyteller, he always manages to get a smile out of me with his dry humor and latest events at Burger 9. I ran into a former fire department intern of mine there, with whom I spent numerous hours teaching skillsets and values a decade previous and he shared with me his feelings about those days. The internship was something I held and still value so deeply for what it gives to the SLV in terms of young men and women becoming amazing and enduring public servants. Most people will never know the depths of how much that one program (these last twenty years) has done for the quality of life here in our little area. Thank you Mr. Hill – your words inspired me to feel good about myself in those days again. My reward to you – a pic you probably didn’t even know existed of your training a decade ago at Redwood Elementary…with all sincerity: you are welcome.


Finishing the night at Joe’s where I say my usual quick hellos and to usually skip the beer – always yearning for a glimmer of meaningful conversation amongst the masses that may recognize me though. Karin Ann has done an amazing job running and owning that bar with her hubby and I see strength in her I will never have. She has been so amazing to my mom and to me through this time we have known her. I stop usually just to say hi to her and extend my hope for a new and different beer that never arrives– which though lo and behold she surprised me this week and had a new brand – I was ecstatic. The live music plays too loud for me so I typically wait outside until there is a break – which can be challenging as either the smoking groups make me ill or one of the town’s undesirables who also loathes me will be loitering there…like tonight in both cases.


At the break I bolted in to say hi to Shawna and her friend L’Anja (beautiful name to which I had not heard in my 40+ years until now). Have always appreciated your honesty in our talks Shawna; your post-Hawaii glow was obvious – please return there many times!

I did smile quite a bit tonight, still feeling the long-term lingering affects of the palsy and sadness…but I hope to be writing more and sharing what I learn about this social scene in the SLV, both in the dating realms and elsewhere.


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 -)