BY JAVIER ORTIZ
As many in Holtville know Felipe “Chato” Patiño recently resigned from the Holtville Fire Department to pursue new dreams and goals. I had the pleasure to share some stories and talk with Chato about his experiences in the Holtville Fire Department. For the past 13 years, “Chato” has dedicated most of his life to helping others in the community by performing the honorable job of being a firefighter.
Q: Why do they call you Chato? I don’t know when it started,
but as the tale says, “I was given the nickname by my brother at birth because he knew a kid in school and his nickname was “Chato”, and when I was born my brother nicknamed me “Chato”. The name stuck after that and the rest is history.
Q: How long have you lived in Holtville? Since 1986, I was born in Brawley but raised in Holtville.
Q: How long did you work with the Holtville Fire Department? A: Since September 14, 2004, almost 13 years and almost a little shy by a few days.
Q: Why did you become a fire fighter? I started as an Explorer out of high school. Then I got picked up by the Holtville Fire Department as a reserve. The opportunity presented itself, and ever since then I have been a firefighter.
Q: What training did you have to become a firefighter? I started as a Fire Explorer. I got some training there, but for the most part, it was on the job training.
Q: Why did you resign from the Holtville Fire department? My goals changed and I wanted to do something different. I like the medical field so I decided to become a nurse.
Q: What did you like about working at the Holtville Fire Department? The schedule. I only had to work 10 (24 hour) days a month. I also liked the camaraderie. It was fun and enjoyable helping the community, the city, and making a difference.
Q: What was a challenge you faced as a firefighter? The hardest thing was the turn over for the reserve firefighters in the fire department. A lot of people came with no experience. You have to train them to be firefighters. When they leave, we have to start from square one with a new hire.
Q: What changes in the firefighting techniques have you seen in your career? Technology and anything from vehicle technology to new building construction and new equipment. Social media has changed also the way we share information. Now things spread faster. Everything used to be word of mouth, and with social media, everyone has access to find out about anything “live” as it happens.
Q: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to be a firefighter? To just try it and do it; don’t let anyone tell you how it is. You have to live it by yourself and see how it is. Join the Explorer program to get experience. That’s how I started. ROP is another way of getting involved with the fire department. One thing is reading about being a firefighter, and another thing to be one.
Q: How was your experience with the Holtville Fire Department? Was it memorable? Yea it was great I would do it again in a heart beat.
Q: What are you going to miss about working with the Holtville Fire Department? This is the best job that I ever had. Training, because we would cut up cars and rappel, Forcible entry training was pretty fun, driving a fire truck. Also “making mud”. I would tell my new hires when fighting fires in the wild to make mud with the water to put out those deep-rooted fires.
Q: What are you not going to miss about the fire department? The heat. I won’t miss that especially the hot summer days.
Q: What are your most memorable fires with Holtville Fire Department? Strike team fires are the most memorable ones and particularly the Shasta County fire when I got to see a plane drop a big load of fire-retardant close by. It was pretty awesome.
Q: What are you going to do now that you are officially resigned from Holtville Fire Department? What are your goals? Finish up my Associates in Nursing. I’m currently enrolled in the IVC nursing program. I’m going to enroll at SDSU after finishing my associates degree. I would like to come back to Holtville and serve the city as a council member I always wanted to be on the city council, but my job had a conflict of interest.
Q: Did you always want to be a fire fighter? Not always.
Q: In your career as a fire fighter, do you feel like you have accomplished everything or do you still want to accomplish more things as a firefighter? I have done and seen a little bit of everything, I can’t say I have done it all, but I have done everything that was possible because it’s impossible to do everything in the fire service. I feel like I have accomplished everything. I have almost done it all. I served as the training officer, went into burning buildings, rolled to car accidents, landed a chopper, fought vehicle fires, battled river bottom fires, basically all the cool stuff. I can’t do fight high-rise building fires because there are no high rises in the Valley, and the tallest building in Holtville is two stories high but I done a little bit of everything.
Q: Anecdotes? One time I saved a coworker who didn’t know how to swim from the swimming pool. It’s something that can also happen to firefighters, you know. A lot of people think that we are doing extraordinary work by going inside a burning building or saving someone in a car accident pulling them out of a torn up car. It’s just what we are trained to do, and we get paid to do it.
Q: A few comments you would like to make? I would like to thank the City of Holtville Fire Department for the opportunities I have been given. In the future I would like to be a member of the Holtville City Council.