LAUGHLIN — Being able to help people is at the core of each of the careers of the three new battalion chiefs assigned to Battalion 6, which includes the Laughlin stations.
Eric Poleski, Trent Jenkins and Scott Straily will be based out of fire station 29 in Las Vegas but their duties will include oversight of the Laughlin stations and they will be attending monthly town board meetings, said Larry Haydu, assistant fire chief.
“The average experience for (them) is 25 years with the department and seven as battalion chief,” said Haydu. “The three bring a vast level of experience to the management of the battalion, having commanded hundreds of major calls over their careers.”
The two Laughlin stations, 76 and 85, have responded to approximately 2,246 calls this year, said Haydu.
They are equipped and trained to respond to all types of emergency incidents including emergency medical calls, structure, high rise, wild land and vehicle fires, he added.
“They also respond to technical rescues including high and low angle rope rescues, drownings, boat rescues, vehicle extrications, multiple casualty incidents, searches and elevator rescues,” said Haydu.
The fire department maintains mutual aid agreements with Bullhead City and both departments assist each other when requested, he said.
“The primary response area for the Laughlin stations is the immediate Laughlin area. In the event of a major emergency the Laughlin stations are supplemented by additional CCFD units from Las Vegas,” said Haydu.
Trent Jenkins is a 26 year veteran with the fire department.
A “rare” Las Vegas native, born and raised there, Jenkins joined Clark County Fire in 1992.
Jenkins has a bachelor’s degree in public emergency service from Utah Valley University, holds an emergency medical services certificate and is a paramedic.
“I was 25 years old,” said Jenkins recalling how he became a firefighter. “I was working construction for my dad when a family friend suggested I tag along to learn about being a firefighter.”
There are no regrets about making that decision.
“It’s been a great choice,” said Jenkins. “I love it. I’m keep reminding my guys that the product we offer is service.”
Service is what Jenkins has given.
Shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, Jenkins was deployed to New York as part of the Nevada Task Force 1, where he served as a medic rescuer, he said.
“After seeing it on television for so many days and then to be there — it was a humbling experience,” said Jenkins.
He served on a Federal Emergency Management Agency team and was deployed to New York several days after the 9-11 attacks. He also traveled with the FEMA team to help after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.
“I was deployed as part of the task force,” said Jenkins. “I came home from Katrina and was home for three days and turned around and left to help with Rita. I was gone the whole month.”
There have been ups and downs but Jenkins wouldn’t trade any of it.
“I’ve seen bad, I’ve seen a lot of good — delivering babies or bringing someone back, jump starting a heart,” said Jenkins. “The good makes up for a lot of the bad.”
At the end of the day, it’s about serving others, he said. Being a firefighters means being able to serve people especially in times of need.
“It’s very rewarding,” he said.
But Jenkins doesn’t only serve the public. He’s married with nine children, ages ranging from 8 to 28, he said, and is expecting grandchild number four this month.
Family keeps him busy in his off time and he enjoys sports and being outdoors, he said.
Scott Straily thought he wanted to be a certified public accountant, but having taken a few courses for firefighters to better communicate with his firefighter father, changed his mind.
In January, Straily’s will have been with the Clark County Fire Department for 24 years.
“I just enjoy helping people,” said Straily. “I took a few ride alongs and it just feels good to be able to help.”
Delivering babies is his favorite part of the job, he said.
He helped deliver a baby about 17 and a half years ago and the family of that young woman keeps in touch, Straily said.
“Every day is a different challenge,” he said. “Now I oversee nine stations and I don’t go on as many calls as I used to but I can still make a difference.”
Straily is from San Bernardino, California and moved to Nevada in 1990.
“I didn’t want to live in California or in Arizona,” said Straily.
Nevada seemed like the ideal middle ground, he added.
“I like Las Vegas,” he said. “It has a little bit of everything. It’s not too crowded, it’s growing.”
Once he was hired by CCFD, he became a paramedic, he said. Through the years he earned his bachelor’s degree in public safety administration and his master’s degree in leadership with an emphasis on disaster preparation and executive fire leadership.
Straily is the plans manager for the department for the FEMA team and served as captain of the hazmat team for four years, he said.
As a battalion chief, he and his colleagues will oversee nine stations including the two in Laughlin, Straily said.
They are responsible for training, making sure firefighters understand their service areas, know where the hydrants are and other critical factors like knowing building layouts, he said.
The job is about community and service, Straily said.
“I like for the guys to be out in the community and when they do get out, I want them to be community advocates,” he said.
Straily is a substitute teacher for Clark County School District and recently substituted for a chemistry class, he said.
Like Jenkins, he enjoys spending time with his family, he said.
He and his wife, Jennifer, have three grown daughters, 20, 26 and 29, and two sons living at home, 13 and 11. They are involved with competitive baseball.
Straily said he enjoys running and biking.
Eric Poleski is the third of the new battalion chiefs, but he won’t be staying long.
“It’s just time,” he said of his February retirement.
Poleski has worked in public service for 38 years, nearly 27 for CCFD.
“It’s all happened overnight,” he said of his long career in public safety. “It flew by.”
Poleski got his start working in Jackson County, Michigan as a police officer and a firefighter.
“Those were the days when police officers were cross trained,” he said.
As an officer, he carried firefighting equipment in the trunk of the car in case it was needed, he added.
The economy in Michigan took a turn for the worse and Poleski and his wife opted to take a chance and moved to Nevada in 1991, he said.
“Clark County and Nevada have been very good to my wife and I,” he said.
In his 26 years as a firefighter, Poleski has served as an engineer and a captain, been involved in hazmat, technical rescues and taught medical and firefighting.
He’s seen a lot of changes through the years.
The county used to run about 20,000 calls per year and now it’s up to 175,000, said Poleski.
Anything big that’s happened in Clark County, he’s been there for it, he said.
He was there when the British Airways airplane caught fire and he was the first battalion chief on scene when the shooting occurred Oct. 1, 2017.
How firefighters respond to mass shootings changed after the Columbine incident, said Poleski.
“Firefighters used to wait for the police to go through and clear the scene and call it safe,” he said. “Unfortunately, a lot of people died due to the slow response.”
Now, firefighters follow behind police officers and once police have cleared an area, firefighters can get to victims much quicker, he said.
During the Las Vegas shooting, firefighters responded alongside Las Vegas Metropolitan Police officers and that helped save a lot of people because firefighters could get to critical victims more quickly.
Poleski said officers now carry tourniquets so they can offer immediate assistance.
“It’s a little of our job and a little of their job,” said Poleski.
He loves what he does. It’s something new every day, he said.
“I love the cult of people who are drawn to this work,” said Poleski. “It’s about putting the needs of others in front of ourselves. That’s the true measure of a great officer or firefighter.”
And while he’s loved it, he’s ready to move forward. And to four seasons.
He and his wife bought a house in Michigan where he still has plenty of family, including his parents and a couple of brothers.
Poleski is done with the heat and ready for the cold.
He’s looking forward to being able to play his bagpipes and guitar. He’s into woodworking and being outdoors, he said.