Renovated van to assist Clovis Fire Department

If a home in Clovis catches fire, chances are good that you'll see more than just fire engines showing up. The Clovis Emergency Response Team van will likely be there as well.

The response team, with about 40 active trained volunteers assisting the Clovis Fire Department, now has a refurbished ambulance that can respond to emergencies and help people out. The van is expected to be placed into service this week.

The van, an old Selma Fire Department ambulance, has been refurbished to help residents whose homes catch fire and supply firefighters with drinks and a rest area. It also will be used at major Clovis events as a cooling center, said Chad Fitzgerald, Clovis Fire Department spokesman.

It was refurbished with $15,450 in grant money through California Volunteers, a state agency that distributes federal Homeland Security funds.

California Volunteers had grant money left over last year and gave some of that money to Clovis after learning about the city's need for a van, said Marta Bortner, assistant director for the Sacramento-based agency.

"Since we had some additional funding at the end of the year, we were able to support them," Bortner said.

Selma Fire Department officials determined two years ago that the ambulance, a 1994 model with 200,000 miles on it, could no longer serve as an emergency vehicle. It was going to need an engine and transmission overhaul, Chief Jeff Kestly said. "It came to the point where it was time to retire it," he said. "It was just sitting idle in our public works yard."

But the Clovis volunteers knew they could fix it up and put it to use. So Selma gave the ambulance to the volunteers.

In exchange, Clovis will provide Selma firefighters with hazardous materials and urban search-and-rescue training, Kestly said.

Clovis' 40 emergency response volunteers are trained through the Fire Department. The city also is working to "cross-train" its volunteers with the American Red Cross.

"They will get skills training from Clovis and the Red Cross ... maximizing volunteer capacity in the community," said Fitzgerald, the Clovis fire spokesman.

The American Red Cross training is a unique way to increase training for disasters, said Ellen Knapp, chief executive officer for the Fresno and Madera Counties Chapter of the American Red Cross.

She said the Red Cross has not worked previously with volunteers from individual cities. She said there are no similar programs in the seven counties she oversees between Kern and Mariposa counties.

Clovis volunteers' training with the Red Cross will be finished at the end of September, Fitzgerald said.