MOHAVE VALLEY — The Mohave Valley Fire Department decided to celebrate its 50th birthday Saturday in a fitting manner — with friends.
“We just wanted to get the community together to meet the firefighters, meet the chief and captains have some fun and eat some food,” said Michelle Schaubeck, co-organizer of the celebration. “We’ve been serving Mohave Valley for 50 years, and we’re proud of that.”
The MVFD started in August of 1969 as a volunteer department and went professional in 1984.
Fire Marshal Don Gibson has been around for much of the department’s existence. He started nearly 37 years ago, while still attending Mohave High School.
“I’ve had chances to go other places and make more money,” Gibson said. “I just prefer to be here.”
Gibson said he has seen changes in a variety of areas during his tenure. Fire trucks and ambulances have been modernized, and more efforts are being made to protect firefighters, he said.
When he started, Gibson said, crews didn’t have self contained breathing apparatus, but now, they don’t fight fires without them.
The canvas turnout gear crews once wore to fire scenes has been replaced by Nomex or polybenzimidazole — flame-resistant polymers.
He said leaders in the fire service have become more aware of post-traumatic stress disorder and how to treat it.
“Back then, they’d say ‘go have a drink, blow it off, you’ll be OK,’ ” Gibson said. “Now, if we have someone with an issue, we take care of it ... help them to get their life back on track and continue their career.”
Gibson said he spent part of Saturday talking with visitors about his career, which has included working on such major incidents as the Icehouse Fire in 1995, the 2015 Willow Fire and the California Hotel fire in Needles. Another call he worked on was a lumberyard fire in Bullhead City.
While the nostalgia (and the smoke alarms handed out) likely appealed mostly to adults, children were not left out. They could enjoy a bounce house, a few carnival games or an obstacle course simulating the rescue of a large stuffed bear nicknamed “Mr. Teddy.”
There was food for everyone. The menu included hot dogs, chips, popcorn and watermelon.
Those who dared could launch soaked sponges at Fire Chief Ted Martin, who defended himself with a spray can.
Sabrina Rel brought her 4-year-old son, Joseph Gonzalez, to the event. She said she liked its mixture of fun activities and safety lessons, such as crawling through a trailer set up as a simulated smoky room.
“He’s having a good time,” Rel said.
Joseph may have seen his future Saturday. A question about his plans for when he grows up netted the response “put out fires.”