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The last volunteer

Ceres’ only reserve firefighter retires

The last volunteer

Ken Burrow, Ceres' last volunteer firefighter, is retiring as the city program is being phased out for good.

POSTED November 13, 2009 10:26 p.m.
Ken Burrow is the end of an era in Ceres.
In 1979 he joined the Ceres Fire Department in a day when the average citizen could volunteer to put out fires. Not anymore. Because equipment became more complicated and state laws about certification put training out of the hands of most volunteers, the city is ending its program.
Burrow, 63, is being retired as a reserve firefighter since the city is phasing out the reserve program. Burrow said he was ready to retire.
Thirty years ago Burrow was encouraged to become a volunteer firefighter with the Ceres Fire Department. His friend, Tom Davis, encouraged him to apply. “I never really dreamed about being one but I liked it and I was there ever since,” he said.
“He’s done a good job for the community,” said Brian Weber, fire division commander of the City of Ceres Department of Public Safety.
In the early days, Ceres Fire was staffed by a paid chief and all volunteers. That worked well, said Weber, when Ceres was handling under 50 calls a month and volunteers got excited to get one call per day. As laws changed, and Ceres call volume grew with the population, the volunteer program was put out of commission and paid firefighters were hired.
“We were getting more and more of the medical calls and the volunteers were getting hammered,” said Weber.
Volunteers were grandfathered into a reserve firefighter program designed for better training. The city eventually adopted an intern firefighter program for young men and women who have a desire to start a career in firefighting. Interns must have a minimum of an emergency medical technician certificate and be a graduate of the Fire Academy, said Weber.
Burrow hasn’t been on a fire call in years but Weber said he’d volunteer several hours a week at the station, handling equipment and being of help where needed.
“In the early days, it was a lot better because we got to ride on the back of the engines,” said Burrow. “We can’t now because everyone rides inside the enclosed cab for safety reasons.”
The 40-plus-year Ceres resident helped to fight a lot of fire over the years. Shortly after he joined, he was called to help battle a huge pallet fire in the business yard adjacent to the Memorial Hospital Ceres campus.
Burrow helped tackle the early morning Jan. 11, 1991 fire of the former Whitmore School, which at the time was the Ceres Unified School District headquarters.
Also standing out in his memory is a huge industrial warehouse fire near the Whitmore Avenue.
House fires were so numerous that only one really stands out in his mind. Burrow was fighting a Sixth Street house fire and was unknowingly slowly backing up toward a swimming pool in the front yard as he was directing the water stream. Burrow fell in with turn-outs, boots and air mask filling with water.
He will be honored at a barbecue for friends on from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. today at the Ceres Community Center, 2701 Fourth St. Those who know Burrow are invited.

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