The volunteer firefighters train frequently to prepare for emergency calls.

The Big Creek Volunteer Fire Department logo on a 1971 fire engine, still in use today.

The volunteer firefighter turnouts hang on the wall inside the station, ready to put on in case of emergency.

The volunteer fire department is located in the heart of Big Creek, an isolated mountain community in the Sierra Nevadas.

Big Creek Volunteer Firefighters Help Keep Mountain Town Safe

Of the nine volunteers, eight are SCE employees or family members.

  • By Justin Felles
  • September 22, 2015

At 3 a.m., a fire erupts.

Smoke billows out of a house surrounded by dense forest. Flames rage into the night sky.

Cal Yarborough, former chief of the Big Creek Volunteer Fire Department, runs down the road, finds a hose and starts spraying a smoldering propane tank. Neighbors awake and race to the volunteer fire station to sound the alarm.

For over an hour, the Big Creek volunteer firefighters battle an inferno. Quick thinking and immediate action saves an entire community.

“One structure fire can decimate this whole area,” said Tony Hernandez, Southern California Edison (SCE) test technician and volunteer firefighter. “If we didn’t have anyone here locally to take care of that, there may not be a Big Creek.”

Video credit: Justin Felles, Joseph Foulk and Ernesto Sanchez.

The fire department has nine volunteers. Six are SCE employees at the Big Creek Hydroelectric Generating Station, located steps down the road. Two are children of SCE employees and one is the town’s church pastor.

About 90 percent of the residents have volunteered with the fire department. And for good reason — 50 miles of windy mountain roads separate Big Creek from Clovis, the nearest big city. Without the in-town volunteers, emergency help would be more than an hour away.

The crew trains twice a month to prepare for fires and rescue calls. The mountain location makes the community especially vulnerable to fire. In 1994, a wildfire burned 5,000 acres of forest around the town, right up to the backyards of homes — but the firefighters stood their ground and safely protected every home.

These men and women volunteer because they love their town — their neighbors, their co-workers and their family. That’s what life in Big Creek is all about — family.

“The safety of this town and our visitors depends on us,” said LaDonna Crane, chief of the Big Creek fire department and mother of two volunteer firefighters. “We never look forward to hearing that alarm, but we’re ready when the time comes.”

Leave a Comment

We welcome your feedback and comments. We ask that you please keep them constructive, civil and respectful. If you wouldn’t say it in front of your mother, then there is a good chance it falls outside of our guidelines. Please read our comment policy here.

Related Stories

SCE Crews Continue to Make Repairs as Thomas Fire Still Burns

SCE Crews Continue to Make Repairs as Thomas Fire Still Burns

SCE Crews Make Repairs in SoCal Wildfire Areas OK’d by First Responders

SCE Crews Make Repairs in SoCal Wildfire Areas OK’d by First Responders

SCE Conducts Damage Assessments as SoCal Wildfires Continue to Burn

SCE Conducts Damage Assessments as SoCal Wildfires Continue to Burn

Top Stories

Strong and Prolonged Santa Ana Winds to Blow Through SoCal

Strong and Prolonged Santa Ana Winds to Blow Through SoCal

SCE Crews Work With First Responders to Gain Access to Fire-Damaged Areas

SCE Crews Work With First Responders to Gain Access to Fire-Damaged Areas

High Winds Drive Wildfires in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, Sylmar and Tujunga Areas

High Winds Drive Wildfires in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, Sylmar and Tujunga Areas

Edison Energy Group and its subsidiaries are not the same company as Southern California Edison, the utility, and they are not regulated by the California Public Utilities Commission.

© 2017 Edison International

© 2017 Edison International

Download and Use Policy

This Site is owned by Edison International. Unless otherwise indicated, all of the content featured or displayed on this Site, including but not limited to, text, graphics, data, photographic images, moving images, sound, illustrations, computer code, trade marks and logos and the selection and arrangement thereof (referred to in this section as the "Content") is owned by Edison International, its licensors or its third-party image partners and all rights in relation to the Content are reserved. All Content is protected by copyright, trade dress, moral rights, trade mark rights and other laws relating to the protection of intellectual property. You may use the Content for your personal, or news-related, non-commercial use, but you may not otherwise reproduce, modify or in any way commercially exploit the Content.

Accept Decline