Local leaders at the city and county level took some time this week to recognize local volunteer firefighters who are willing to train year-round for an opportunity to serve the community.
In honor of Fire Prevention Week, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors honored Assistant Bishop Fire Chief Pat O’Neil as Firefighter of the Year.
A few hours later, the Bishop City Council, meeting on Tuesday due to the Columbus Day holiday, elected to honor the entire Bishop Volunteer Fire Department as the Citizen of the Quarter, an honor the council gives out every four months.
In observance of Fire Prevention Week, the BVFD spent Thursday at Bishop Elementary Schools teaching the technique and importance of “stop-drop-and-roll.”
“You can be very proud of these volunteers,” Bishop Fire Chief Ray Seguine said.
Mayor Laura Smith said she has been at many different functions where state emergency first responders were in attendance, and that the BVFD has a reputation of high excellence to “live up to.”
Bishop Police Chief Chris Carter said, as a 30-year first responder working side-by-side with both paid responders and volunteers, “Ray and the crew do as good a job as any.”
The sentiment was echoed by various department heads and council members throughout the meeting.
During the Board of Supervisors meeting Tuesday, Fourth District Supervisor and Big Pine Volunteer Firefighter Marty Fortney, who brought the request to honor O’Neil before the board, said the assistant chief has been a dedicated member of the Bishop fire department since 1971.
“While Assistant Chief O’Neil was serving his community as a volunteer fireman, he was hired as a firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service where he worked his way through the ranks to achieve the position of Captain 31, serving in that position until his retirement in 2007,” Fortney said.
Though O’Neil retired from the Forest Service in 2007, he remains a fixture within the Bishop Volunteer Fire Department, maintaining what Fortney called an “outstanding training record” and doing regular upkeep on department vehicles.
O’Neil also oversaw construction of the department’s training facility on East Line Street in Bishop.
“Assistant Chief O’Neil has dedicated most of his adult life serving the community of Bishop in the protection of our citizens, visitors and the natural resources of the Inyo Forest,” Fortney said.