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Fire Department Profile: Community Protectors
Nancy Fisher | 24th Street

See also Peak Performers

Captain Pat O’ Neil and members of the crew certify Del Mar’s Public Works employees in CPR and first aid. Photo Nancy Fisher.
Click on photo to enlarge.


Del Mar residents might be surprised to hear that our firefighters spend only 10% of their time fighting fires. The rest is devoted to preventing fires from starting in the first place, responding to calls for medical aid, maintaining equipment, and educating themselves and the public. That doesn’t leave much time for thumbing through chili recipes, as some might imagine.

Fire Captains
Jim Bingham
Pat Giannetto
Pat O’Neil
Fire Engineers
Jeff Penacho
Dave Read
Rob Tucker
Joel Carrington
Gio Maniscalco
Morgan Sherman

Our nine-member, full-time team of firefighters includes three captains, three fire engineers, and three firefighter/paramedics who work 24-hour shifts in teams that include one of each. During this time they’re inseparable as all three are required to respond to calls together. Even their hour of exercise time, to ensure that they can lift the 85-100 lbs. of equipment they might need to carry, is spent together. “One of us might be on a treadmill,” says paramedic Joel Carrington, “while another is on a stationary bike or lifting weights.” This explains why residents often see three firefighters conducting a routine inspection or shopping at Albertson’s driving a fire engine. “The fire engine is our tool box,” says Captain Pat O’Neil. “It goes everywhere we go.”

The responsibilities of the department are fire prevention, suppression, and protection, emergency medical services, vehicle accidents, rescue, and hazardous material incident response, while working closely with Solana Beach and Encinitas for shared management services. All firefighters undergo continuing training to stay current, as well as classes to further their careers within the department. Some classes are conducted in the afternoon and some are completed online, and range from swift-water rescue and the handling of hazardous materials to understanding the effects of new drugs on the street. Firefighters are required, by law, to complete two hours of training per shift, and if they’re too busy one day, they must complete four hours the next day.

Because of Del Mar’s elderly population, medical aid calls are often for chest pains, shortness of breath, and hypertension. Car accidents and water-related injuries also contribute heavily and our paramedics are prepared to determine, with the use of a 4 or 12-lead EKG whether a patient should be transported to a trauma center. Because they are unable to perform x-rays they frequently err on the side of caution and transport accident victims to the trauma center at Scripps La Jolla. In all cases, whether or not the accident is traumatic, they recommend that people be transported to a hospital for evaluation.

In addition to furthering their own educations, firefighters provide classes, demonstrations, and public safety and disaster preparedness programs to the public and to city employees, including regular certification of Del Mar’s Public Works employees in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), the use of Automated External Defibrillators(AEDs), and first aid. They are a sponsoring agent for Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) and offer CPR instruction through Del Mar’s non-profit organizations. Another little-known benefit to the community is their semi-annual training of service dogs to ensure the dogs aren’t startled by firefighters and their equipment.

Rounding out their responsibilities are annual inspections of Del Mar’s hotels, motels, restaurants, and new businesses, and the review of residential and commercial building plans for fire code compliance. And they’re available, by appointment or drop-in, to give residents and their families a tour of the Fire Station.

But back to the chili cooking. “Yes,” says Captain O’Neil, “we enjoy cooking for charity groups, fundraisers, and for ourselves.” To find out which firefighter is considered one of their best cooks, see “Inside the Fire Department” in this issue.



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