Inside Station 44, Battalion 7 HQ
Most drivers heading out of Scripps Ranch, taking side streets toward Kearny Villa Road or Miramar Road, pass by Fire Station 44 at 10011 Black Mountain Road. It’s the one with the metal sculpture of firemen sliding down an old-fashioned fire pole. Most motorists pay little attention unless the bright red vehicles are exiting, heading toward an emergency.
What many don’t realize is that this little station also serves as headquarters for San Diego Fire Department Battalion 7 under the command of Battalion Chief Dan Froelich. The Battalion 7 chief oversees seven fire stations, including stations 33, 38, 40, 42, 44, 46 and 37, the one most locals think of as the Scripps Ranch fire station at 11640 Spring Canyon Road. The Battalion 7 territory stretches from eastern Mira Mesa up through Rancho Penasquitos, Scripps Ranch and northward to Rancho Bernardo.
Capt. Paramedic Kevin Byszewski, who coincidentally went through paramedic school with Chief Froelich in 1992 and the fire academy with him in 1997, explained how things work at the station.
Station 44, which went into service in 2000, is staffed by three sets, or divisions, of emergency workers, each rotating in to work 24-hour shifts which last from 8 a.m. to 8 a.m. the next day. Each shift has a crew of two captains, two engineers, four firefighters, a battalion chief, and one ambulance staffed by a paramedic and an emergency medical technician. Vehicles at Station 44 currently include a fire engine, a fire truck, an ambulance, the battalion chief’s Suburban and a brush truck for battling brush fires. The brush truck is temporarily stationed there through wildfire season.
The fire engine has a 500-gallon water tank and can pump water to fight fires. The fire truck carries ladders and equipment. The brush truck is staffed by four and has a 300-gallon water tank. It has all-wheel drive for rough terrain and can pump water as it moves. The battalion chief’s Suburban acts as a command vehicle. While the ambulance is stationed with the city’s emergency vehicles, the vehicle and its crew is from American Medical Response, and is contracted through the city.
Station 44 was serving as a training station for four new firefighters as Byszewski explained the procedures. When the station receives an emergency notification, a bar light flashes over the exit doors and the call comes over speakers located throughout the station. Firemen hustle to don their protective emergency outfits and rush toward their vehicles.
Yes, to save time, firemen still pull on special firefighting pants that have boots attached. One of the trainees gave a demonstration and, sure enough, he pulled on his pants with boots in just seconds.
Things can get very hectic and the work is dangerous. Those living in Scripps Ranch long enough remember the horrible wildfires of 2003 in which 350 homes were lost in this community, and the 2007 wildfires that forced another evacuation of Scripps Ranch. Byszewski was involved in efforts to fight those fires, and he remembers how busy and tiring the work was during those long-lasting emergencies.
“It was one of those situations where you’re doing whatever you can to save as many houses as you can,” he said.
Life in a fire station is not all excitement and danger. The firemen are required to exercise every day, and they spend lots of time cleaning their vehicles and maintaining equipment.
Firemen are responsible for their own cooking. It’s part of being a fireman, Byszewski said, adding there are two main requirements: “You want to have it hot and you want to have enough.”
Some of the new trainees have never cooked for eight to 12 men at a time before, so the captains train them to cook, as well. Every day the staff pools its money for groceries, with each person putting in $10. Therefore, shoppers will often see firemen at grocery stores during the day.
If the crew members are called to an emergency while shopping, they must drop everything and jump onto their vehicles. Byszewski said that although this situation sometimes occurs, grocery store employees are understanding.
“You know, they’re usually pretty good,” he said. “As we’re going out, we’ll just ask, ‘Hey, can you put this in the back or in the fridge? We’ll come back when we can.’”
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