Susanville Fire Department wins 4th annual Fire Truck Face-Off

The small Susanville Fire Department – tucked in the remote northeastern corner of California – never had participated in the Fire Truck Face-Off before this year. But lack of experience was no hurdle for Fire Chief James Moore and his energetic crew, who emerged victorious in the 4th annual competition sponsored by Golden State Fire Apparatus of Sacramento, Northern California’s fire truck sales and service leader.

Susanville’s sparkling white Quint Ascendant 107-foot Aerial was runaway winner, collecting 2,411 votes in the monthlong online competition, including a dominant 842-373 victory over the Oakland Fire Department in the championship showdown.

Moore – a 34-year veteran of the Susanville department who is in his eighth year as chief – said the victory is gratifying on multiple levels.

“It not only brings value to an organization, but it brings value to the community,” he said. “It helps communities remember they can get together to do good things.”

For the uninitiated, Fire Truck Face-Off is a friendly competition put on for a good cause. Each March, Golden State randomly selects 32 of the fire apparatus it has sold or leased in the previous calendar year. Those vehicles then are organized into brackets – think of the March Madness college basketball tournament applied to fire equipment.

Fire apparatus of all types from the chosen departments face off, with the winner in each round advancing based on the number of votes cast via the Facebook stories poll feature. The key to winning, of course, is for each department to use social media and other methods to encourage its fans, followers and friends to vote.

This year’s friendly event reached more than 153,000 people in departments ranging from the Bay Area to the Central Valley and the Sierra. More than 15,000 total votes were cast over four weeks. A website devoted to the competition kept everyone up to date about the results.

“We want to thank all the fire departments that participated,” said Golden State President Ryan Wright. “To everyone who voted, shared and commented, you made this experience absolutely tremendous. We look forward to next year!”

Despite not having participated before, Moore and his Susanville team quickly sprang into action before its first-round matchup against a tender from the Yreka Volunteer Fire Department. Moore appeared on a couple of popular Susanville radio stations to let community members know how they could vote. A press release was sent to local media. Administrative assistant Cheyenne Ratkey and Fire Capt. Leon Myers rallied people on Facebook by publishing and then boosting posts.

The result was an impressive 287-93 victory for Susanville, which followed that with closer wins over a similar 107-foot aerial from the Santa Rosa Fire Department in the second round and then a pumper from the Salinas Fire Department in the semifinals.

That qualified Susanville for the championship match against another pumper, this time from Oakland. Moore went back on the radio to encourage people to vote while Ratkey and Myers beat the drum online and reached out to other nearby agencies for support. The Susanville department – which turned 100 years old this year – even offered commemorative hats and glasses to people who voted.

The result? Votes streamed in from far and wide, including from Moore’s cousin who lives near Edmonton, Canada. Susanville was a runaway winner in the finals. Pretty impressive for a department with only nine full-time employees, 18 volunteers and just one fire station.

“It really engaged our community in a good way,” Moore said. “And all for a good cause.”

The victory comes with a $1,000 donation from Golden State to an organization of Susanville’s choosing. Moore selected Susanville Best of Broadway, a musical and stage production company that was hit hard financially when COVID kept it from presenting any performances the past couple of years.

“They were essentially broke coming into this season,” Moore said.

The attention being showered on the winning piece of equipment continues an interesting first year for truck No. 661, one of the busiest in Susanville’s fleet. It was completed at Pierce’s manufacturing plant in Wisconsin in mid-July, but wasn’t put into service until September. That’s because Pierce first asked to show it off at the FDIC industry trade show Aug. 2-6 in Indianapolis. The vehicle – painted a crisp white with red lettering – has room for seven firefighters and includes a carcinogen filter system that changes the air out every 3 minutes, custom storage and a 350-gallon water tank.

“My folks love it,” Moore said. “We designed a very functional piece of equipment that works in a rural community with a combination staff. It has everything we need and all the tools to handle any kind of call.”

About GSFA: Golden State Fire Apparatus is the No. 1 Pierce dealership in Northern California. Our trained staff of Emergency Vehicle Technicians works out of our 35,000-square-foot maintenance facility in Sacramento. We continually invest in tools and equipment so that your emergency vehicle receives the utmost care, while reducing the man-hours required to get the job done right. If you have any questions about any aspect of your equipment’s performance, we’re here to help. You can reach us at (916) 330-1638 or at info@goldenstatefire.com

Boulder Creek earns 2021 Fire Truck Face-Off championship

Boulder Creek - FTFO winner 2021

Like the firefighters who use it, Engine No. 2112 of the Boulder Creek Fire Protection District is a hard worker.

It is a Pierce pumper that has rolled out to just about every call since its delivery last spring. It was especially busy in September during the horrific CZU Lightning Complex Fire, which burned 85,509 acres across two counties near Santa Cruz, destroyed 1,500 structures, damaged 140 more and, tragically, left one person dead.

So, it is fitting that a piece of equipment that serves such an important purpose in the volunteer district is being recognized as the winner of the 2021 Fire Truck Face-Off competition sponsored by Golden State Fire Apparatus of Sacramento, Northern California’s fire truck sales and service leader.

Each March, Golden State randomly selects 32 of the fire apparatus it has sold or leased in the previous calendar year. Those vehicles then are organized into a bracket – think of the March Madness college basketball tournament applied to fire equipment.

Fire apparatus of all types from the randomly selected departments face off, with the winner in each round advancing based on the number of votes registered on a website devoted to the competition. The key to winning, of course, is for each department to use social media and other methods to encourage its fans, followers and friends to vote.

This year’s friendly competition reached more than 81,000 people in departments ranging from the Bay Area to the Central Valley and the Sierra foothills. Voting for each match took place over 24 hours so departments had to have a strategy to get the vote out when it was their turn.

Some of the matches were lopsided, but many were close. In the quarterfinals, the fire departments in Piedmont and Fairfield actually ended up in a tie, which was broken by a Zoom coin flip won by Piedmont.

I have found that over the years many people in the fire industry are very competitive and when they have the chance to win at something and also support something they believe in, they are very passionate about it.

Ryan Wright, President of Golden State Fire

The final four matched Boulder Creek’s pumper against Piedmont’s pumper and Napa County’s tender vs. Sacramento’s pumper. Boulder Creek and Napa County advanced, with Boulder Creek scoring a relatively easy 295-135 voting victory in the championship match.

The win earned Boulder Creek a $1,000 donation from GSFA to the organization of its choice – in this case, the local parks and recreation foundation – plus a badge to put on its vehicle and bragging rights for a year.

Boulder Creek check presentation

“We are very excited to support Boulder Creek and their win. They have a very tight-knit community in addition to a fantastic looking Pierce fire engine that made many people want to vote for them,” said Ryan Wright, Golden State’s president.

Battalion Chief Chuck Wise was Boulder Creek’s point man during the competition. Though admittedly not experienced in social media, Wise leaned on co-workers when it came time to post on Facebook and even enlisted his 20-year-old son and 16-year-old daughter to help spread the word on social media that it was time to vote.

“We shared the Golden State posts about the competition, and we reminded our community members how they had passed Measure N a few years ago,” said Wise, referring to the parcel tax that allowed the department to buy Engine 2112 last year. “We tried to engage with a lot of groups in our community and have them share it all over the place. People were happy that we won.”

The closest vote, Wise said, came in the matchup with Marysville, which Boulder Creek won by about 20 votes.

The winning pumper – like many of those across the region – is in use virtually every day.

“It carries hoses and water and helps us respond to various emergencies,” Wise said. “It’s like a one-stop shop. It has the Jaws of Life, ladders and other tools. Pretty much everything we need to help the community.”

It is not the first connection between Golden State and Boulder Creek.

Last fall, after the CZU Lightning Complex Fire had destroyed key pieces of the water system that serves about 10,000 people in the area 10 miles northeast of Santa Cruz, Golden State and W.S. Darley & Co. of Chicago, which makes water pumps, teamed up to deliver 5,000 gallons of drinking water to residents.

“In the end, it’s all about charity and our social responsibility that we take seriously at Golden State,” Wright explained. “We are thrilled to support this community last year with the water donation, this year with the Fire Truck Face-Off win and to support the department for years to come on their Pierce apparatus.”

“We also want to thank all the fire departments that participated. To everyone who voted, shared and commented, you made this experience absolutely tremendous. We look forward to next year!”

About GSFA: Our trained staff of Emergency Vehicle Technicians works out of our 35,000-square-foot maintenance facility in Sacramento. We continually invest in tools and equipment so that your emergency vehicle receives the utmost care, while reducing the man-hours required to get the job done right. If you have any questions about any aspect of your equipment’s performance, we’re here to help. You can reach us at (916) 330-1638 or at info@goldenstatefire.com

GSFA founder remembers his good friend, Dave Boyd

Dave Boyd’s official title at Golden State Fire Apparatus was “new arrivals coordinator.” But his influence was felt in so many more ways.

He was a role model for what a loyal employee should be. A great teammate. A barbecue chef extraordinaire. And, most of all, Boyd was a trusted confidante to the boss.

“He was one of those rare individuals who was just a real man’s man. A real gentleman’s gentleman,” said GSFA founder and CEO Bill Wright about his friend, who died Jan. 30 from COVID-19. “He was a very down to earth, genuine, sincere person. He was very honest and a hard worker. Our society today in America needs a lot more Dave Boyds.”

He was so demanding of himself before he was demanding of others. He was a man of very high standards. Everybody respected that.

Bill Wright, GSFA founder and CEO

Wright and Boyd first met in 1987, when Boyd was still working as the assistant chief in the Salida Fire Department. Golden State sold a Pierce pumper to Salida and it was Boyd who volunteered to go to Wisconsin, inspect the vehicle and then drive it home. It was the first in what would end up being hundreds of one-way journeys Boyd would make delivering trucks from the Pierce manufacturing facility to California.

Even before retiring from the Salida department in 1998, Boyd was already working with Wright’s team at GSFA in his spare time to drive trucks from Wisconsin to Golden State’s headquarters. That relationship continued following his retirement as a firefighter.

“His title was new arrivals coordinator,” Wright said. “When a truck was finished in Wisconsin, he was one of the people who would get an email that it was ready to be picked up. Dave would pack up his bag, get his briefcase and computer, and get on a plane, fly to Minneapolis and then a commuter plane to Appleton.

“He knew every highway to travel on. If it was snowing, he would head to Texas and then to California. And if it was nice, he would go on Highway 80. It took four days… When he arrived back in California, he would inspect the truck again and make sure it was functioning, then contact the customer and have them come to Sacramento. He arranged for a date to deliver the truck to them and then he would arrange another time to do the training with them. Dave was a key individual in our business. A lot revolved around him.”

Dave Boyd airport

Boyd lived in Salida; Wright’s home is in Stockton. Since both were driving almost every day to Sacramento, they decided it made sense to commute together. Soon, a bond was formed that was more than about saving money on gas. The two became very close friends. They found they shared similar interests in airplanes, target shooting and the events of the day. With their wives, they went out to eat on occasion and vacationed together on the coast.

“We had 45 minutes each way to discuss politics or any number of things,” Wright said. “When Dave came on board, I found it very comfortable to talk to him and, little bit by little bit, I would share things with him to see how far I could trust this man. Over the years, he was probably my greatest confidante. I never had to remind him to keep things to himself. He would always respond with, ‘Here is what I think,’ or, ‘What I would do.’ ”

Dave Boyd Barbeque

In one way or another, Boyd interacted with almost all of Golden State’s 42 employees, who universally admired and respected him. One of his most endearing qualities was as the chef overseeing the company’s barbecues every few months. Boyd had a professional grill that he would tow to Sacramento behind his pickup. Often, his wife Phyllis would make pies or other side dishes. Their son Eric – a firefighter in Turlock – also would attend on his days off.

“He took it very seriously,” Wright recalled of Boyd’s culinary skills. “He would use charcoal, but always brought almond wood that was dried to a certain percentage. He was very meticulous about getting the fire going and keeping the grill clean.”

In fact, Boyd was so admired as a cook that he was often asked to serve at various gatherings in the Salida area. Once, he even hauled his barbecue all the way to the Dakotas to cater the wedding of a friend’s daughter.

“Dave would never do anything in a mediocre way,” Wright said. “It had to be done to perfection – whether it was working on a truck or barbecuing. He was so demanding of himself before he was demanding of others. He was a man of very high standards. Everybody respected that.”

Though he was 75 when he died, Wright said that Boyd still liked to work despite having operations to replace both knees and one hip.

“In the last three or four years, he would say, ‘Bill I need to slow down.’ But he never did,” Wright said. “He loved what he was doing. He probably worried about what he would do. He would say, ‘I can’t retire now, Bill. I’ve got trucks coming in for Contra Costa or San Jose.’ It was like these trucks were Dave’s kids and he was going to see that truck through to completion.”

Sadly, after Boyd contracted COVID, Wright was only able to talk to his friend by phone. Phyllis Boyd also came down with the disease. If there is a silver lining, it was that they were able to share a hospital room in Modesto, allowing them to talk and hold hands. She was able to be with him when he died.

“The next day, the most amazing thing happened – she was discharged,” Wright said.

The death of his friend hit Wright hard.

“Until it affects someone you know and love, you don’t realize how devastating this disease is,” he said.

Boyd’s funeral in Salida attracted many admirers – family and friends, members of his church community, GSFA employees and even firefighters throughout Northern California who knew him as the guy who drove their truck from Wisconsin and then trained them on how to use it. To honor Boyd, his casket was taken from the church to the cemetery on a 1934 Mack firetruck owned by the Ripon Fire Department.

“The reverence, the respect … you would have thought some great dignitary was being buried,” Wright said. “I haven’t been to a service like that in my lifetime. It was an honor to be there.”

Wright will remember his friend as a man of few words who had “the heart of a servant and humility of mind.”

“Dave was a very loving, caring gentleman,” Wright remembered. “He was not a critical person. He never talked down to people. I respected him greatly for that. … He was a very strong believer in Jesus Christ and active in his church. He was very respected in his community. Dave always wanted to deflect the credit. He was a man of great integrity and great honesty. He was such a wonderful man. He would do anything to help you.”

About GSFA: Our trained staff of Emergency Vehicle Technicians works out of our 35,000-square-foot maintenance facility in Sacramento. We continually invest in tools and equipment so that your emergency vehicle receives the utmost care, while reducing the man-hours required to get the job done right. If you have any questions about any aspect of your equipment’s performance, we’re here to help. You can reach us at (916) 330-1638 or at info@goldenstatefire.com

Two companies with big hearts

One from California, the other from Illinois – provide water to fire victims

The CZU Lightning Complex Fire began late at night on Aug. 16 near Boulder Creek, a quiet little town deep in the redwood forest about 20 miles northeast of Santa Cruz, Calif. By the time it was contained Sept. 22, it had burned 85,509 acres across two counties, destroyed 1,500 structures and damaged 140 more. Tragically, one person was killed.

The fire also knocked out the water system that serves more than 10,000 people who live in the San Lorenzo Valley Water District. Stepping in to help to fill that critical need were two companies with limited connection to Boulder Creek, but plenty of heart to be of service.

Golden State Fire Apparatus, based in Sacramento, and W.S. Darley & Co., headquartered in the Chicago suburbs, teamed up to deliver a truckload of desperately needed water Monday morning to the water district. Golden State sells fire and emergency apparatus. Darley makes water pumps, many of which are found on fire apparatus.
Together, Golden State and Darley paid for and arranged a semi-truck loaded with 24 pallets of water – more than 5,000 gallons — to be driven from Dallas to the San Lorenzo Valley Water District office.

The timing was perfect as the water district was almost out of water when the truck arrived.

Ryan Wright, President of Golden State Fire
The donation came about after Wright corresponded with a California Office of Emergency Services representative about how Golden State might help fire victims in hard-hit communities. He was told that the people in and around Boulder Creek needed drinking water. That sparked a conversation Sept. 22 with Paul Darley, President & CEO of W.S. Darley & Co. By Sept. 25, the truck was on its way from Texas.

People are in need of water and we are fortunate to be in a position to help in any way possible to provide this vital resource.

Paul Darley, President & CEO of W.S. Darley & Co.

Holly Hossack, administrative assistant at the water district, said the district lost three water tanks and all of the pipelines leading to and from the water treatment plant. While some water service has been restored, people living in more than 350 homes are on “do not drink, do not boil” orders due to the risk of volatile organic compounds caused by the fire possibly being in the water. That order is expected to last another three weeks, she said.

The district goes through five or more pallets of water per day, Hossack said, with each household allowed two cases of water per day. Before the truck arrived Monday, “We were down to a couple of pallets,” she said.

Tanya Wright, Ryan’s wife and a Golden State employee, was in Boulder Creek with their 17-year-old daughter and a family friend on Monday when the truck arrived and parked in the middle of two-lane Highway 9, right in front of the water district office. Within an hour, the pallets had been offloaded and distribution begun to people patiently waiting in their cars to pick up water.

“People looked tired and worn out, but they were joyful despite what they have faced,” said Wright, who described driving through burned out areas nearby as “heartbreaking.”

“We saw four or five houses that had burned to the ground,” she said. “All that was left were ashes and hot water heaters. And then 100 yards away, there was a house that didn’t get touched. It was really tragic and humbling. It made you really see what these people are going through.”

Unfortunately, with more than 100 wildfires burning all over the Western United States in the past month, the scene near Boulder Creek has been far too common. The need for water and other supplies is acute in many states.

Golden State – carrying on the tradition established by its founders, Bill and Marie Wright – has donated before through the Red Cross and other relief agencies.

Kevin Sofen, Darley’s Business Development Manager, said the Illinois company is eager to work with other organizations that would like to arrange a water donation. Darley has an interest in a business called Box of Rain Water, which provides drinking water after emergencies and also to the military. The water – like what was delivered to Boulder Creek — comes in 2.64-gallon (10-liter) units. Think of boxed wine, just with water inside.

Sofen said interested companies should contact him at (310) 625-6248 or kevinsofen@darley.com.