A Dangerous Situation: Mariposa Fire Department Needs Volunteers

{}The Mariposa Public Utility Fire Department is a volunteer force that has been around more than sixty years. However, the department might have to shut down if more people don't volunteer to be fire fighters. The department only has 7 members and one person in training.

James Dulcich owns a hardware store in downtown Mariposa, but the shop isn't the place Dulcich spends his time.

"It was just a natural thing for me to fall into the fire department," says Mariposa Fire Department Chief James Dulcich.

Dulcich has been a volunteer fire fighter for 45 years and he's been the department chief for 14 years. Over the years Dulcich says he's seen changes at the department.

"We had about 30 members back in those days and over the years it's just dwindled down to almost nothing," adds Dulcich.

The fire chief says one of his biggest worries with having such a small fire department is protecting historic structures, like the ones in Downtown Mariposa. Many of the buildings are more than a hundred years old.

"A lot of them have open space," says Dulcich, "The "Pizza Factory" fire that we had over a year ago had multiple roofs on it and we just couldn't get to it."

The department has a mutual aid agreement with Mariposa County and Cal Fire. Dulcich says Cal Fire fills in the gaps, but sometimes cal fire isn't available.

"Minutes count, it don't make no difference if it's a health issue or if you're having a heart attack or if it's a fire," says Dulcich, "The quicker you can get to a scene, the easier it is to offset what's going on."

Dulcich says he tries to recruit, but it's hard. People don't have the time they used to, but if more people don't volunteer the department might not be around at all.

"We'll probably be able to keep it going for awhile," says Dulcich, "Anytime any one of the volunteers' moves or change jobs that impacts us very heavily."

Another dilemma the fire department is facing Chief Dulcich is stepping down as chief next month. He'll still be a fire fighter, but he can't find anyone to take the top spot. If a new fire chief is not found, the department's administrative duties might have to be outsourced to another agency.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer fire fighter in Mariposa, you can call the Mariposa Public Utility District at 209-966-2515.