Fire Department changes, but heroes remain

NEWPORT BEACH — Newport Beach Battalion Chief Chip Duncan remembers when firefighters used to have to practice their ladder work parked behind local grocery stores amid the Dumpsters.

Retired firefighter Jerry Strom remembers when in the early 1970s, before the department had paramedics, all they would bring on medic calls was a blanket, some oxygen and a first aid kit.

That's just a couple of the differences over the last few decades. Now imagine the changes over the last 100 years, as the Fire Department marks a century of service in the city.

"We went from being a vocation to a growing profession," Duncan said last week, as firefighters hosted a public breakfast leading up to Sunday's anniversary.

Capt. Rob Beuch started in masonry, but he eventually ended up in firefighting and decided to stick with it. He said decades ago most firefighters came into the job from other trades.

While the core mission of the department will never change — solving problems outside of law enforcement — the amount of skills firefighters are trained in and the types of medicine they practice continually evolve.

And when it comes to Newport specifically, Beuch said, department leaders "demanded only the best in customer service. And that hasn't changed today."

—Joseph Serna

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