With housing and rental costs at an all-time high, volunteers are fighting to stay in our community
The Ben Lomond Volunteer Fire Department is the epitome of “it takes all kinds.” From construction workers and paramedics, to accountants and retirees, these are the trained volunteers who respond when you have an emergency.
And who better to protect our community than those who know it, love it, and live among its residents?
Though most of our on-call volunteers are scattered throughout the community, the fire station offers limited housing that some of the firefighters, like Hunter Anderson, are grateful for.
“I’m one of four firefighters that live at the station full time,” he said. “We have living quarters upstairs with four bedrooms, a bathroom, a rec room, and a gym.”
Anderson, 24, is currently a firefighter/emergency medical technician at BLFD. He also has specialized training as a swiftwater rescue technician and is in the process of becoming an engineer for the department. The housing is provided free in exchange for his volunteer services to the residents of Ben Lomond.
“We run a lot of calls and we’re home (at the station) a lot on the weekends for staffing,” he said. Anderson added that the firefighters always check each other’s schedules when planning vacations or weekends away to make sure there’s always coverage.
For volunteers who need to find another place to live, the search can be difficult due to the rising cost of living. Many of our young volunteer firefighters are lifelong residents following their career paths, who want to stay and serve our community.
Local firefighter Xavier Chavez, a 25-year-old BLFD firefighter/EMT, was fortunate to find a place where the landlord offered a discount on rent – just to keep him in the area and available to volunteer at BLFD.
“It means a lot to me and it would be hard to afford living in the area without having a cheaper place to live,” he said. “Being apart of BLFD is probably the most important and favorite part of my life. We just have a passion, love helping others, and helping out in the community.”
Aside from volunteering his services, Chavez is a paid firefighter for Santa Cruz County Cal Fire. He added that if he were a landlord, he’d be likely to rent to a firefighter.
“If something were to happen in the neighborhood, at least you know that there is someone dedicated to the fire service helping out, whether it be your house on fire, or a medical call,” Chavez said.
So if you have a rental unit available, consider renting to one of our volunteer firefighters – and keep them in Ben Lomond!