CROWS LANDING - Two retired Crows Landing firefighters will be honored in early August for their decades of support and service to their community.
Much has changed since Danny Robinson and Randy Corgiat signed on to serve on the volunteer fire department more than 30 years ago.
The ranks of Crows Landing firefighters have dwindled from two dozen or more when they joined to a skeleton crew and eventually reached a point where the yellow 1980 Van Pelt firetruck remains parked in the station as units from Newman and Patterson cover calls in the Crows Landing area.
“It is still an active station, but Newman is covering most of the calls and Patterson comes down,” Robinson related.
One constant through more than three decades, however, was the dedication of Robinson and Corgiat to the department and community until their formal retirements in late May. Robinson, the fire chief for more than two decades, stepped down after 38 years. Corgiat, his assistant chief, served on the department for 32 years.
Both said they joined the department out of desire to help their community, and have since responded to calls numbering in the thousands, rendering aid and comfort to friends, neighbors and complete strangers alike when the pager tones summoned help.
“The good side of it is just the satisfaction of serving the community,” Robinson reflected. “You get a lot of interaction with other people, including those off the freeway who have been in an accident....the bad side of it is the accidents.”
When they joined the department, Corgiat and Robinson explained, formal training was minimal compared to today’s standards and most of their education came on the job.
“The old timers showed you what to do and that was it,” Robinson said.
“We had training here, but mostly it was hands-on experience,” Corgiat added.
There was no shortage of involvement in the fire department in those days, the retired firefighters recalled. The ranks of firefighters numbered 25, and there was a waiting list to join.
Through the years, though, that began to change.
“I probably had 20 guys until about 10 years ago, and then it started dropping off,” Robinson commented.
By about five years ago, Corgiat said, the writing was on the wall.
“Back in the day when we would respond to a call there would be firemen coming from everywhere who drove right to the scene,” he said. “The last few years, you head out there and don’t know if anybody from here is coming.”
Newman and Patterson departments began routinely responding to some calls where manpower was essential, Robinson noted. The aid was appreciated and essential, he reflected, but at times the few minutes required for those units to arrive on scene ticked away at what felt like a snail’s pace.
Medical aid calls represented the bulk of their responses over the years, Robinson and Corgiat said, but they also battled some notable West Side fires, including a fire in a huge tire stockpile in the Westley area and the IOOF Building fire in downtown Newman.
Often, they had the opportunity to go above and beyond in helping those who were in a difficult situation....sometimes giving an out-of-towner involved in a traffic accident a ride to Modesto or just bringing somebody into the fire station to make a call (in the days before cell phones were everywhere).
“It has been very rewarding,” Corgiat remarked. “It makes you feel good to help people out.”
The camaraderie within the department was another reward.
“Crows Landing was always like a family. We had a good group of guys,” Robinson told Mattos Newspapers. “I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
“If there were still people like that, I wouldn’t get out,” Corgiat agreed. “There just isn’t anybody left.”
Robinson is not stepping totally out of the department, but rather into a new role. He said he was recently appointed to the board which oversees the West Stanislaus Fire Protection District, of which the Crows Landing station is part.
The community appreciation event for Robinson and Corgiat will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3, at the Crows Landing fire station.
The event is a collaborative effort of the community and the West Stanislaus Fire Protection District. The Crows Landing Lions Club and Perez Ranches are among those involved, said community organizer Colleen Sanguinetti.