Friday marked the 15th consecutive year that the Sparks Fire Department (SFD) delivered Christmas gifts to its adopted family, which this year housed four children anxiously waiting for SFD personnel to unmount from the fire truck and bring Christmas to their doorstep.
Washoe County Social Services has supplied SFD with a local foster family needing help during the holiday season, according to Battalion Chief Barry Hagen. He said the partnership with Washoe County allows for the battalion to take on a large family or two smaller-sized families because the program has garnered plenty of donations throughout its years.
"Everybody in the fire department contributes cash donations and then our battalion goes out and shops for what the kids need and also a few toys," Hagen said prior to the gift delivery Friday. "These kids appreciate everything we bring to them, but who wants to just open socks on Christmas. The combination of needful and useful clothing with a few toys just gets the kids really excited, and I know the parents are grateful for it too."
Hagen said community service efforts like the Adopt-a-Family program keep all firefighters and personnel at SFD striving toward Fire Chief Tom Garrison's "template" of community-minded work.
"The chief always reminds us that we serve the community," Hagen said. "That is a big thing for all of the Sparks Fire Department because our client is the community and the community comes first.
"On a personal basis, I feel it is my duty to get the engine over there and help this family. I love seeing the kids get excited and they are always appreciative. I know there are plenty of things like this happening in the community this time of year so it is nice for us to be out there doing something as well."
Hagen said 100 percent of the funds contributing to the Adopt-a-Family program are raised at SFD and he added that many firefighters look forward to donating and visiting the families when December comes around. SFD has a few similar traditions, such as the annual Pancake Breakfast and the Project SAFE smoke detector installment, that focus on giving back to the community.
"That is one thing I love about our fire department. We go above and beyond to do things for the community that some others might not do," Hagen said. "It is an important culture to have where we enjoy giving back. It is not just a job for us. We all have to support our families, of course, but we do have plenty of people who love to give back and give to others and it is just so great to see."
Hagen said SFD crew members have adapted their skills and job descriptions throughout the years and they do not just fight fires anymore. He said most personnel are certified, and constantly training, in hazardous material management, water and ice entry and removal, emergency medical services and much more.
Though more responsibility is placed on local firefighters, Hagen said keeping the welfare of the community foremost in their minds helps maintain positive results in the field.
"There was an old stigma that firefighters would just be waiting around playing cards or something until a fire broke out," Hagen said. "We do so much more than just fire now so we are always training for something and it keeps us on our toes.
"We have a battalion working Christmas day and it is something that we have to do. Accidents don't happen Monday through Friday from eight to five, so we always have to be ready."