Editor’s note: The Herald/Review is highlighting six first responders from various local fire departments throughout our area. This is the second installment.
These unsung heroes utilize skill and compassion, and are a small sample of those who are there at a moment’s notice to help those in need.
BISBEE — In its copper-mining heyday, Bisbee’s boom brought with it a need for housing for the miners and the businesses, which led to homes and shacks up the steep slopes of the Mule Mountains in Old Bisbee.
Much of the building was scattered willy-nilly as miners and entrepreneurs bought small parcels of land on which to build wooden homes and businesses, often within a foot or less of each other. A devastating fire in the old town in 1908 fire was fought by a valiant volunteer force and brought with it the realization of the need for a full-time fire department and the best equipment.
Today, Bisbee’s full-time paid fire department has faced similar situations of potential disaster with impressive results, thanks to well-trained teams and equipment provided by benefactor Leonard Temby and family, as well as a number of grants to fight not just structure fires, but wildland fires as well.
Bisbee firefighter and paramedic Lt. Raul Villasenor has eight years under his belt as a first responder in his hometown. He serves as the emergency medical services coordinator, training officer and successful grant writer to provide the department with updated equipment for fire and medical needs.
He is also a single parent rearing his toddler son, Raul, and his young daughter, Isabella.
Villasenor started out in school with a desire to be a police officer. Then he went on his first ride-along in a fire truck.
“I was hooked,” said Villasenor. “The lights and sirens driving down the road, arriving at someone’s house and seeing the EMT and paramedics doing a whole bunch of stuff that seemed amazing to me to help this person. Then, later on, I saw that person grocery shopping and doing great. So, I wanted to learn and do the same to help people and try to make a difference.
“I thought at the time how cool it would be to be able to ride in a big fire truck and wear all this gear and be able to fight and put out fires. To me, it was a no-brainer.”
Once he was into the training, Villasenor found the significance of his role far more than the flashing lights. He liked helping people and liked the fact that no two days would be exactly alike.
His most memorable moment on the job was tending to a patient already in cardiac arrest when the team arrived.
“We were able to resuscitate the patient and get the heart started again,” he explained. “A few months down the road, that person met with me and my partner at the time and wanted to meet us and say ‘thank you.’ For me, seeing them doing great is what makes this job more than worth it.”
There are calls which can pull at heartstrings and scenes that cannot be unseen on a job like his. And it is not always easy to deal with tragedy, he said.
But, Villasenor’s reward comes from the times he is able to take someone’s bad day, whether fire or medical, and make it better.
“That’s all you can hope for,” he noted. “Knowing you made a difference in their lives. That’s the most satisfying for me.”