Please let us introduce you to Dennis Soriano, a Firefighter/Paramedic with the North County Fire Protection District.
Dennis joined the fire protection District in 2007 as an Explorer, which sponsored him for attending the Palomar Colleges Basic Fire Academy. In 2014, he was brought on as a Reserve Firefighter and in 2016, was hired as a full-time Firefighter/Paramedic.
A typical day on-the-job for Dennis involves arriving at work at 7 a.m., placing all the gear needed through the shift onto the fire engine, then getting a detailed breakdown regarding what had taken place during the prior shift. At that point, he’s ready to face the day.
The next hour involves going over all the equipment on the fire engine; which is extremely important, since North County Fire is provides Advanced Life Support. As such, every professional on a fire engine is a paramedic. Each engine has a specific department that has extensive medical equipment that requires being thoroughly checked out, daily.
Between approximately 8 a.m. to noon, when there’s not an emergency in process, he participates in on-going training and station maintenance. After an hour’s lunch break, the remainder of the day involves physical fitness and more training. By 5 p.m., crews prepare and cook dinner. After dinner, he and his coworkers clean the fire station and other work spaces; when done, he gets to work on a variety of projects/programs that are designed to maintain and enhance the firefighting and emergency services provided to the community, daily. Around 9 p.m., Dennis calls home to check in on his family.
His work schedule involves a 48-hour (2-day) continuous shift. Beyond his duties at the NCFPD, Dennis remains involved with the District’s Explorer program; he also participates in the District’s Volunteer Program, Equipment Program, Cultural Cadre, and making Career presentations at local schools.
When asked about what his understanding is of the needs of the NCFPD, based upon his own experience, Dennis says, “I’ve been a full-time firefighter for four years now. For the entire time, we have been concerned about the District’s budget; more specifically, how this impacts our ability to provide the services that the community needs and expects. The budget has small increases and decreases depending on the year; depending upon how well our local economy is doing…since we depend mostly upon property taxes for the majority of our funding.” Dennis continues, “North County strives to provide our community with the highest standards of fire protection and emergency services, possible. North County’s call volume has increased, significantly, over the past few years. This is challenging for our department because Fallbrook no longer has hospital in town to care for our patients. This puts a lot of wear and tear on both our engines and ambulances. For example; 1 ambulance transport to the hospital is a 2-hour turnaround time.”
Regarding the relationship between the quality of service the District provides residents throughout north San Diego County and the condition of the District’s fire stations and related facilities, he explains, “Our stations are very important in how we deliver our services. We try to respond to our calls in under 8 minutes. If you think about it, eight minutes from 911 call to a fully-training fire crew being at your door is pretty incredible. This is something we strive for all the time, even at night.“
Dennis points to some specific factors. “One of the important parts providing the best service possible is how our stations are set up. The newer stations are set up so we can drop whatever activity we are doing and get to the rigs and out the door, very quickly. When I work at one of our older stations, however, this response time can take longer for a host of reasons; most of them involving the fact that many of these facilities are outdated.”
For example, Dennis explains that, “…the newer stations have appropriate sleeping arrangements; whereas, the older stations are more of a community bedroom style arrangement, while the state-of-the-art stations are set up so that if only part of the crew is dispatched to a call…the rest of the station isn’t jolted out of sleep. We are learning all about how adequate sleep is important to our safe operations, and the older stations just were not set up to make this possible.”
When asked what he likes most about working for North County fire, he explains, “North County fire is a family-oriented agency. We take pride in taking care of one another through the good and the bad. As a result, I have formed bonds with my coworkers that will last my lifetime.” For a brief time prior to joining the NCFPD full-time, he accepted a position at a neighboring fire department. “While there,” Dennis concludes, “I experienced a lot of great things and am grateful for what I learned; however, I told myself no matter where I was at in my career, I would always try and make it home to my dream department at North County. I couldn’t be happier about being home at the NCFPD.”