Idyllwild Fire Chief Patrick Reitz addressing the group who came to the Idyllwild Fire Auxiliary organizational meeting last Thursday. Photo by Barbara Reese

The Idyllwild Fire Department Auxiliary held its organizational meeting last week and the attendees agreed upon a mission statement and a schedule for future meetings.

About 16 people, ranging from under 20 years old to more than 70 years, came to the Idyllwild Station for the first meeting of the prospective Fire Auxiliary. Nancy Layton, bookkeeping contractor for the department, and former president of the local Mountain Disaster Preparedness group, led the meeting.

Fire Chief Patrick Reitz discussed his experience with an auxiliary at Crooked River Ranch Fire and Rescue in Oregon and his hope for the establishment and future of one here in Idyllwild.

“In Oregon, the auxiliary and the department were like family,” he said. “We built a cohesive organization.”

In Idyllwild, Reitz hopes the auxiliary will be very active around the fire station, which allows the career and volunteer first-responders to focus on training and emergency responses. He stressed the auxiliary is not for responders to fight fires. The paid staff and volunteer company perform the emergency work.

“The Auxiliary is for those who can’t or don’t want to serve in an emergency service role,” he stated.

Some of the possible activities and projects which Reitz and Layton presented included hosting special events, covering the front desk, answering phones, maintaining the station and vehicles, helping with WNKI, the emergency radio station, providing public education, marketing and fundraising.

“There are two limitations, our imagination and the law,” Reitz said.

Nancy Layton (standing) led the first meeting of the IFPD Auxiliary on Thursday evening at the Fire Station. Photo by Barbara Reese

Following Reitz’s comments, the group discussed its possible mission and agreed on the following statement:

“The Idyllwild Fire Department Auxiliary exists to provide support for our professional responders, outreach for our communities and assistance to department staff in maintaining a strong fire department and station.”

In response to a question, Reitz stressed that “professional” included the paid and volunteer staff. It is their ability, not their wages, that deems them professional.

As the organization becomes established, Layton expects it to file for both a state nonprofit status and eventually a federal 501(c)(3) status. This will enhance fundraising, which will provide the money to buy material and supplies for the various station projects.

The Idyllwild Volunteer Company has already established its own auxiliary group and the relationship between the volunteer and the prospective departmental auxiliaries was also discussed. The support for the volunteers will not overlap with the efforts for the station, stressed Reitz and Volunteer Captain Dan Messina.

“We see a common good and plan to work together,“ Messina said later in the week. “Our board agrees with the chief that we will make it work with the same voice.”

Volunteers need help raising funds for their equipment, uniforms, insurance and other costs specific to the company. The department auxiliary will be involved in projects relating to the entire fire department such as special grants, Reitz said, explaining the separate focus of each organization.

“They are not competing, they’re complementary,” he said.

The group decided to hold the next four meetings at 6 p.m., Monday evenings, Feb. 4 and 18 and March 4 and 18.

Decisions on bylaws, officers, directors, and other governing actions were held for these and other future meetings.