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Volunteers work overtime

Ronnie Lynn, Sierra Sun

VERDI – With sweat streaking down his face, Nick Diamond trudged up to the Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle at the Verdi.

“Got any cold water?” he asked.

Red Cross volunteer Phil McKay handed him a nice, cool one, just as he had been doing all day long.

“Oh, this is good,” Diamond said as he gulped back the water. “It never seems like enough. Your body just absorbs it.”

McKay and fellow volunteers Ross Peterson and Richard Baldwin, both from Carson City’s First Baptist Church, manned the Red Cross truck all day long to provide as much refreshment and relief to crews coming and going from the Martis Fire effort’s Verdi staging area.

Like Diamond, some were bus drivers. Others firefighters. It didn’t really matter who they were or what they did.

McKay knows how hard it is working a fire, no matter the job.

It was just six years ago that he was out there working fires. As a 30-year veteran of the Los Angeles Fire Department, he saw his fair share of flames. He endured the heat. He built the lines.

“It’s very debilitating,” he said. “That’s exactly the reason we’re here, to help them recover faster so they can get back on the line.”

Baldwin, also a 30-year veteran firefighter, agreed.

“There’s no hotter work than working a fire,” he said. “You’re working very, very, very hard, and you’re tired.”

McKay drove the ERV, as it’s called, from Las Vegas Tuesday night.

Like the other three ERVs now stationed at various Martis Fire staging areas, McKay drives to the scene of any disaster scene the American Red Cross deems in need of his services.

On Wednesday, the vehicle was stocked with 58 cases of bottled water and an ample supply of ChipsAhoy!, Oreos, Gatorade, and, thanks to some local Girl Scouts, a couple boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

“On a fire line, water is the most important thing,” he said.

As if on cue, Bill Johnson of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention approached.”Got a couple of cold waters?” he asked.

Even though he and nearly 3,000 others are working in various roles to contain the now 14,000-acre Martis Fire, they recognize and appreciate volunteers’ support.

Tony Durrer, a bulldozer operator out of Red Bluff, Calif., said it’s always the volunteers who perk up firefighters when they come down for a break.

“They are great people, professional people, and we appreciate all their efforts and hard work,” he said. “They provide everything for us – food, water, personalities, conversation. And they’re just the nicest people. It’s almost like going back to Grandma’s house.”

For McKay, Baldwin and Peterson, their volunteerism is a no-brainer.

“If you were in need,” Peterson said, “you’d feel good if someone were there to help.”


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