Rookie firefighters find the challenge entertaining, ‘better than Disneyland'

April 10, 2002|By MARIO RENTERIA

Staff Writer

Diego Estrada, 22, of El Centro has been involved in firefighting much of his life. It is a dream come true to serve his community by working for the El Centro Fire Department.

Estrada is one of three of a fresh batch of rookies serving with the El Centro Fire Department. All three are enduring a four- to six-week training course.

Estrada worked for four years with the Imperial County Fire Department but quit to join the El Centro Fire Department. His father, Alfredo Estrada, is a captain with the county Fire Department.


"It's very challenging. This is one of the most challenging jobs in the world," he said of a firefighter.

"It's better than Disneyland," he added.

He said of the El Centro Fire Department, "It's the best department in the Valley. It offers a really intense and aggressive training program. I like that."

"It has good structure and the whole city backs us up," he added.

The training program is now in its fourth week.

Joining Estrada in the training program are Art Garcia, 27, of Heber and Ty Davis, 25, of El Centro.

Garcia, originally from Calexico, worked as a paramedic for Gold Cross Ambulance Service for five years before he was hired by the El Centro Fire Department.

"It's always been a goal of mine to become a firefighter," he said.

He said the transition from paramedic to firefighter has been tough. The luxury of driving in an air-conditioned ambulance is no longer there and firefighting is more demanding and rigorous mentally and physically.

"It's hard. It's more physical and a lot of hard work," he said.

He added, "I've always been in this type of a field, helping people. Being a firefighter is more of a rescue type. It's going to be fun and challenging."

Davis, born and raised in Riverside, joined the Calexico Fire Department for about two months before moving to the El Centro Fire Department.

Davis declined to say why he left the Calexico Fire Department. Davis had worked as a paramedic in Fresno for American Ambulance before coming to Calexico.

"I've always wanted to be a firefighter since I was little. They were role models to me," he said.

"I enjoy this job. I enjoy the camaraderie. They (his colleagues) help you out with problems and the training is great," he said.

Estrada, Davis and Garcia are training along with two other rookies who have been with the department for about six months. Estrada, Davis and Garcia have been with the El Centro Fire Department for about four weeks.

On Tuesday all five were training at an abandoned house at 1035 El Dorado St. in El Centro. The property belongs to Salvador Bermudez, who offered to lend the department the house as a training site before it was torn down.

El Centro fire Capt. Steve Wilson said it is helpful when residents allow the department to train in abandoned houses.

>> Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3441.

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