RANCHO SANTA FE — It’s all lights and noise and you’re just hoping that drivers do move out of the way.
That’s a little of what it’s like to be driving a fire engine en route to whatever emergency beckons, explained Engineer Nick Brandow of the RSFFPD (Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District).
“It’s a lot of responsibility,” he said.
As an engineer, not only is it Brandow’s duty to get the firefighters out to any emergency scene and operate the apparatus once there, but also to be the right hand man to the station’s captain, often serving as the liaison between the captain and the other firefighters.
The sense of responsibility he has towards the work, and his leadership qualities have earned him this year’s David B. Dewey Award.
“He’s been here for 10 years and he’s already demonstrated that he’s going to do very well. We’re very proud of him,” said Capt. Dale Mosby, who oversees Brandow and the other firefighters at Fire Station No. 3 in Fairbanks Ranch.
Mosby knows the meaning of the award, having won it last year.
“It carries on the tradition of being a good employee,” Mosby said.
The David B. Dewey Award was first given out in 1985, explained Karlena Rannals, administrative manager for the RSFFPD.
Dewey, a Rancho Santa Fe resident, served as a board member to the fire district for 25 years, Rannals said. He passed away in 1984.
In honor of his service to the board, Rannals explained that a group of Dewey’s friends that he used to go hiking with in the Ranch area got together and pulled some money. “And they created this firefighter of the year award,” she said.
The award, which recognizes firefighters’ sense of duty, leadership and commitment to the fire district, is voted on by the firefighters of RSFFPD.
When Brandow heard his name announced during the annual awards dinner, he said he was blown away.
“I reacted pretty slowly because I was taken aback that they called my name,” he said. “I definitely didn’t jump out of my seat.
“I was like, ‘Did I just hear that right? Did they just call my name?’ I think for anyone in the organization, it’s one of the coolest awards that you can get because it’s voted on by your fellow firefighters. So, to be able to be seen in that light, to be voted for firefighter of the year, it’s a great honor,” he added.
He was quick to point out the great staff of the fire district as well, from the managers to the administrative staff and prevention and suppression personnel.
“It’s a great department to work for,” he said. “I couldn’t be happier with the department. I think we’ve worked really hard to build the relationship we have with the community; we have great community support,” he said.
For the past two years, Brandow has been at Fire Station No. 3. The firefighters are rotated throughout the stations annually, but in instances of seniority, some are able to stay at their stations for two years before transferring.
Brandow has been a firefighter for 10 years now, and said it was the variety that drew him to the career.
“I’ve always really enjoyed that team atmosphere and the variety of not knowing what each day or each call is going to bring, and then being able to, at the end of the day, turnaround and see your body of work and what you’ve been able to do or help with,” he said.
Brandow came to the department in 2004. Before that, he was building custom homes in Rancho Santa Fe, when he heard they were looking to hire.
“It was a funny thing to have happen,” he said. “To be working in Rancho Santa Fe, building custom homes and see that they (RSFFPD) were hiring when they were building Station Four on Del Dios Highway and then have things unfold from there.”
Living with his wife and two children in Carlsbad, his work schedule revolves around 24-hour-on, 24-hour-off shifts.
But it isn’t all just waiting for something to happen. They are always operationally ready, he explained.
“There’s a lot of training,” Brandow said. “We cover a broad range of emergencies; we’re an all-risk fire department, so no matter what the type of emergency it is, we’re going to be able to respond and help mitigate the issue.”
Firefighter/paramedic Troy Duncan said that Brandow gives the newer guys at the fire station something to strive to be like. “He’s the one you look up to,” he added.
In May, Brandow will be taking his captain’s test.