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What's new with the AVFA

Fire Prevention Open House - Saturday October 11, 2014


The AVFA strives to strengthen the Alta community by increasing cooperative working relationships with all of our local organizations and businesses.  If you have a fundraising or community project we can help with, please call (530) 389-8244.


The Alta Volunteer Firefighters Association is now officially a Non-Profit Corporation - specifically a 501(c)3. What's that mean to the community? All donations are now tax deductible! With our non-profit status established, and a tax ID number (see the donations page) we will be ramping up our efforts to secure grants and donations to  improve emergency preparedness in Alta and the surrounding communities. Also this website and the website for the Alta Fire Protection District are new, and in a constant state of change as we improve the site and add announcements, news, photos and more. Check back often and see what's going on. Also check out the Alta Fire Protection District home page for Fire Department and Community Center news and events.


First responders and Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) personnel from Alameda, Fresno, Los Angeles, Monterey, Placer, San Bernardino, San Joaquin and Siskiyou counties arrived in Alta on February 28 to participate in a 3-day CERT Train-the-Trainer course at the Alta Community Center.  Co-hosted by the Alta Fire Protection District in collaboration with North Tahoe Fire, the FEMA-based curriculum prepares participants to deliver the CERT Basic Training course while focusing on instructional techniques and effective teaching methods to convey the principles of CERT to new volunteers.  Throughout the weekend, all of the participants in the class received multiple opportunities to develop their own unique methods for presentation of the different CERT Basic Training modules and practice “teaching” the material back to the class.

Having recently formed CERT teams in their districts, both Alta and North Tahoe were in need of instructors to assist in delivery of the initial training program that covers incident command, first aid, small fire suppression, and light search and rescue.  The CERT program requires a minimum of two instructors for each of its nine modules, and at least one of them must have completed the CERT Train-the-Trainer course.  Six members of the Alta CERT team and another four from North Tahoe attended the class and received certification, widely expanding the instructor capability for the CERT program in Placer County.

“Our goal is to get as many qualified instructors trained as we can, not only to assist with existing team training, but to expand the CERT program throughout Placer County,” said Lisa Russell, Alta Fire Administrative Chief and CERT Program Manager.  “This was a wonderful opportunity for both agencies to partner together and network with other, more experienced teams and instructors from outside the area.”

Placer County’s Office of Emergency Services and Homeland Security provided funding for the course.  The Alta Fire Protection District is now working to generate backing for a CERT Program Manager course in 2015.


In appreciation of the increased support the Alta Volunteer Firefighter’s Association has received from the District Board of Directors and the Ladies’ Auxiliary, the Firefighters and CERT team hosted an appreciation dinner for both groups on Saturday, January 25th at the Alta Community Center.

“Our emergency personnel get thanked regularly because they’re so visible to the community, but the folks helping those personnel respond safely and professionally deserve the same recognition,” said Alta Fire Chief, Rich Thickens. 

The recent increase in personnel due to firefighter recruitment and the development of the CERT team has led to a much more demanding role for the Board of Directors, assisting with community involvement, policy development and budgetary challenges.  Although the department volunteer roster and activity level has increased substantially in the last year, the budget has not, and the responders are relying more and more on grants and outside funding sources for equipment and training.  For 2014, the District has already secured almost $26,000 in grant money, increasing their resources by more than a third, but each outside funding source requires additional planning and administration for the department, adding to the workload for the directors.  “A lot of effort is being expended, but everyone’s working together to make the best decisions for the district and to prioritize the needs of the responders and the community,” said Administrative Chief, Lisa Russell.  “With the challenges facing volunteer departments these days, we need directors who can be progressive and work with us to get things done.”

The Alta Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary has stepped up to the task as well.  Using proceeds from boot donations and sales from The Attic, the local thrift shop, they have contributed almost $1,000 already this year to the department, purchasing winter tires for a recently donated chief’s vehicle.  In 2013, the Ladies also assisted with purchasing turnout gear and breathing apparatus for the firefighters, and have established a reimbursement program for wildland boots for the volunteers.


In recognition of Fire Prevention Week 2013, the Alta Fire Protection District hosted an Open House on October 5 to educate the community about fire prevention and introduce residents to other public safety agencies that respond to our area in an emergency.  

Volunteer and paid first responders from Alta Fire, AMR Ambulance, American Red Cross, Cal Fire Station 33, Placer County Fire Company 32, Placer County Sheriff’s Office, and Placer Hills Fire were all on hand with fire engines, ambulance, support units and law enforcement vehicles to answer questions about emergency response and their respective apparatus.  

Placer Sierra Fire Safe Council, Kinder Morgan, PG&E, and Union Pacific also gave presentations on defensible space and safety issues relating to their services, and CalStar Air Rescue Ambulance raffled off a year’s free membership for emergency helicopter transport.  Alta’s newly formed Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) was available to answer questions and provide information about disaster preparedness and community readiness, and the Alta Volunteer Firefighter’s Association provided refreshments.

There were lots of activities for the kids, including Stop, Drop and Roll, Stay Low and Go, and getting to spray water with a real fire hose.  Sparky the Fire Dog and Smokey the Bear made appearances throughout the event, assisting with the activities and having their pictures taken with the kids.  A Fire Prevention Coloring and Poster Contest coordinated through the Alta-Dutch Flat Elementary School was also a big hit with entries being submitted up until the end of the day. 

The department hopes to make this an annual community outreach event as a means to keep the public informed on fire prevention and public safety.  National Fire Prevention Week is observed in the United States during the week of October 9 each year and commemorates the anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire in 1911.


Alta residents and guests were treated to a new event in our community in August as they attended their first ever National Night Out Alta Community Block Party.  Co-hosted by the Alta Fire Protection District, the Alta Deli, Alta Store, Cal Fire Station 33, and Sierra First Baptist Church, the community came together to meet their neighbors and public safety officers.  California Highway Patrol, Placer County Sheriff’s Office, and AMR Ambulance were also present for the evening.  Although this was the 30th Annual National Night Out to take place, this is the first year Alta has participated.

Organized by National Association of Town Watch, National Night Out is a yearlong community building campaign designed to: (1) heighten crime prevention awareness, (2) generate support for, and participation in, local anticrime programs, (3) strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships, and (4) send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.

Along with the traditional outside lights, front porch vigils and public safety activities, Alta’s block party included live music from 2 bands, hamburgers and hotdogs, an Alta flag design contest, volleyball, horseshoes, and other traditional outdoor games.  The highlight of the evening was a pie-eating contest that was unequivocally dominated by a visiting Cal Firefighter.

The event was well-attended and we look forward to repeating it next year!


Alta Firefighter Jim Stallings recently completed the 2013 Placer County Volunteer Academy and received his Firefighter I Certification from the California State Fire Marshal’s Office.  The 180-hour course that was presented in conjunction with Auburn City, Cal Fire, Placer County, and Placer Hills Fire covers basic training on wildland and structural firefighting, as well as emergency medical response and hazardous materials awareness and operations.  Firefighter Stallings was one of 17 graduates in the class, and was honored to speak on behalf of the students at the graduation ceremony.  He has been with the Alta Fire Protection District since January 2013. 


After 11 months of aggressive fundraising, decisions, and repairs, 
Alta’s 1980 Ford L9000 water tender is back in quarters and ready to be put in service.  The apparatus was taken off the road last July following a substantial engine failure, and the Fire Department began raising funds and weighing the decision to replace or repair the elderly apparatus.  After receiving several bids on a full engine replacement, the contract was awarded to G&T Truck Repair in Colfax.  Funding for the repairs came from the District’s apparatus maintenance budget and savings.  The Alta Volunteer Firefighter’s Association also raised over $5,000 in donations from multiple community fundraisers.

While a Placer County tender was housed at Alta’s Station 98 during the repair period to cover the area, residents of the community and former volunteers of the department are happy to see “Big Red” WT-98 back on the road.  The apparatus was originally purchased in 1987 and has a long history in Alta.  There’s definitely a sentimental value to the vehicle because so many of Alta’s current residents were a part of the original apparatus purchase committee, or have utilized the vehicle at fires in the past.   Everyone, it seems, has a story to tell about his or her experience with the lumbering giant.  Carrying 3,800 gallons of water, WT-98 is the currently the only water tender permanently stationed on I-80 between Meadow Vista and Truckee, and it is requested frequently for mutual aid in non-hydranted areas during fire season.

The Alta Fire Protection District is seeking qualified operators for the apparatus.  Drivers are required to have a current Class B Commercial Drivers license with air brake and manual transmission endorsement, as well as a current DOT medical clearance.  Fire Safety and Emergency Vehicle Operation training will be provided to interested licensed drivers.  Please call (530) 389-8244 or see “Volunteer Opportunities” if you are interested in becoming a Non-Firefighter Water Tender Operator.


As of June 6,  2013, the Alta Fire Protection District Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) has received official approval and recognition from CitizenCorps and California Volunteers.  Currently the only recognized CERT team in Placer County other than the Lincoln area, the group of 27 volunteers is in the process of completing the nine-module CERT training course that is nationally recognized by FEMA.  State and Federal approval registers the team for potential disaster deployment upon completion of their training, and qualifies the group to receive personal protective equipment and other materials at no cost to the fire district.   Official registration also opens up additional funding and grant opportunities the team did not qualify for prior to CitizenCorps recognition.  This is a huge boost for the team and the fire district, and demonstrates the recognition by outside agencies and elected officials of the need for this type of training in Placer County.  


On February 20th, the Alta Fire Department hosted an organizational meeting for community members interested in forming a regional Community Emergency Response Team and was amazed at the turnout from the area.  “We were hoping for six or seven people to show up, instead we had nineteen individuals, mostly from Alta, but as far down the hill as Weimar” quoted Alta Administrative Chief Lisa Russell.  “This is a really enthusiastic and diverse group with a wide variety of backgrounds and experience.  They’re bringing a lot to the organization and the community before they’ve even begun to work together as a team.”

The department is expecting over twenty students to begin the nationally recognized Basic CERT course in March, and plans on utilizing the group to support the Fire Department in numerous ways, not only for wildfires, but cold weather events as well, assisting in health and welfare checks on remote citizens, and other assigned duties when the firefighters are tasked elsewhere.  The initial CERT course consists of nine separate modules including disaster preparedness, fire safety and first aid.  The team will also be cross-training with the Red Cross to assist in the operation of setting up the Alta Community Center as an evacuation or shelter site, and will receive CPR and AED training to augment its capabilities.  Residents who are not from the district will train alongside the Alta volunteers with the goal of taking the information back to their communities and developing similar programs along the I-80 corridor under the umbrella of Mountain County CERT. 

The advent of local and regional CERT teams in the area is especially timely, coinciding with the recent heavy recruitment for volunteer firefighters in Placer County, and a surge of interest by the Red Cross in identifying potential evacuation and shelter sites in the area following the Robbers Fire.  County-wide, there is an increasingly recognized need for non-firefighter volunteers to assist in the event of an emergency, and CERT training is designed to organize and educate those resources before they’re needed.  This is a perfect opportunity for residents in the area who may be unable to meet the physical requirement or time commitment to become a fully trained firefighter to support their fire department and the community in the event of an emergency.  

Alta CERT will train once a month on the second Tuesday at 6:30 pm at the Alta Community Center.  Classes start March 12.  For more information or to register for training, please call the Alta Fire Protection District at (530) 389-8244 or look under Volunteer Opportunities online at  

James Davenport, Bill Graham, Colin Carmichael, Cornell Davis, Ed Snider, Jill Bechtel, Daria Snider (and baby Emily)

Alta Firefighter Bingo Nights Contribute $5,000 towards Water Tender

Monthly Bingo nights at the Alta Community Center have assisted the Alta Volunteer Firefighter’s Association greatly with their fundraising efforts to get the community’s water tender back in service.  At the December 7th event, former firefighter and Bingo Night founder Bill Graham presented the Association with a check for $5,000, more than tripling their existing fund.

Started as a fundraising event 12 years ago by Graham, who was then an Alta firefighter, the evenings have turned into a monthly social activity, strongly supported by the community and attended by a core group of regulars and guests each month.  Bingo nights have contributed over $16,000 to the firefighters in cash or equipment donations in the past, and allow the firefighters to purchase the items and training that sometimes exceed the District’s budget and might not be attainable otherwise.

The evenings provide a relaxed environment for residents and neighbors to socialize together and have fun while contributing to a valuable cause.  Volunteers bring refreshments that are served between plays, and coffee, popcorn and other sweet treats are always available to sample.

Alta Firefighter Bingo Nights are held the 1st Friday of every month at 7:00 p.m. at the Alta Community Center behind the Fire Station at 33950 Alta Bonny-Nook Road.  For more information, please call (530) 389-8244.

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