A sudden departure of two volunteer first responders in Southeast Inyo has left just one man, one volunteer Emergency Medial Technician, on-call 24 hours a day.
According to a fire district board member, the volunteer, William “Billy” Eichenbaum, rarely has time for a breather, much less the time to travel the 35 miles one-way to the grocery store. An upcoming fundraiser will focus on garnering donations to help recruit more volunteers.
Board member Robin Flinchum said the goal of this year’s annual fundraiser for the Southern Inyo Fire Protection District, happening Saturday, will be to raise money to get new volunteers trained and on the team. There are a few volunteers to help Eichenbaum, but he is the only “qualified responder.” Flinchum added the number of calls for assistance coming into the SIFPD has tripled this year.
She explained that one volunteer retired and another left unexpectedly this year, leaving Eichenbaum as the lone first responder in the vast geographic and desolate area of eastern Death Valley. One new volunteer is almost done with “EMT boot camp,” Flinchum said and should be back soon to give Eichenbaum a break. Another new volunteer is interested in attending boot camp as well, but the district is trying to raise the $4,000 to send the volunteer to training.
Flinchum said she is “astounded” by what Eichenbaum does. She said he does not have the time to travel the more than an hour round-trip drive to the nearest grocery store, yet he keeps answering calls.
“That’s what volunteers do,” Flinchum said with a crack in her voice, noting that just the thought of the dedication of “Billy,” and everyone else who put others before themselves, brings a tear to her eye.
She said she is hopeful that more volunteers and funding will help the district and its citizens – “if we all pull together.”
This year’s fundraiser will be about getting more volunteers to step up, so everyone can rest easy, Flinchum said.
In year’s past this annual event was called the “Firehouse Fling” – with proceeds going toward a new fire house. Flinchum said that the board and other volunteers have been busy this year with a load of other responsibilities along with being short-handed and unable to organize the event. “We’ve had other fires to put out,” said Flinchum, vice-chair of the district board.
Flinchum said that, fortunately, the Amargosa Opera house and Café and the Historic Tecopa Hot Springs Resort stepped up to help coordinate the event. Subsequently, the event is being called the “Fall Festival,” with all funds raised still going to the district.
This year’s festivities will include a flea market and booths with vendors and crafters as well as a raffle and live music by Earth Blues featuring Jacqueline Lennon. Prizes for the raffle include a weekend package at Shoshone complete with a bird-watching tour with Len Warren, a nest searcher for the Point Reyes Bird Observatory and Amargosa Canyon Songbird Project for the past three seasons. Other prizes include a zip-line tour courtesy of Boulder City Flight Lines, Grand Canyon tours, a hand-made quilt and a set of “The Death Valley Red Light Chronicles” books authored by Flinchum.
Amargosa Opera House Café will be serving turkey legs, chipotle pork chops and a fantastic frozen cheesecake on a stick, Flinchum said. Pastel’s Bistro will be open all day for the event as well. Visitors can also take a drive to China Ranch for a date shake. The Shoshone Museum will be open, too.
The district and fire fighters will also be selling T-shirts.
Flinchum said there will be no star-party this year because of the full-moon this weekend, but that shouldn’t discourage people from camping out, hiking and enjoying the desert. She said there are plenty of camping sites available, either at a paid spot with hook-ups or a little ways out-of-town on Bureau of Land Management turf.
“This is the perfect time of year,” Flinchum said.
The “Fall Festival” will be from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, this Veterans Day weekend at the Tecopa Hot Springs Resort.
There are still spots for vendors. To reserve a spot, call the resort at (760) 852-4420 or (760) 852-4130. For more information, call Flinchum at (760) 852-4941.