RSF Fire Department receives grant for self-contained breathing apparatus

Rancho Santa Fe Fire Chef Tony Michel (third from left) and board members Jim Ashcraft (fourth from left), Nancy Hillgren (fifth from left) and John Tanner (sixth from left) accept a check from G.S. Levine. G.S. Levine was represented by (far left) Alexis Ranglas, Ross Afsahi, (beginning fourth from right, l-r) Rick Avakian, Tom Torgerson, Steve Finley and Larry Sukay. Photo/Karen Billing

By Karen Billing

On March 13, the Rancho Santa Fe Fire Protection District celebrated a grant given to the department from G.S. Levine Insurance Services and Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company.

The $6,525 grant was used to purchase 20 self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) cylinders. The cylinders provide a continuous flow of clean, breathable air when firefighters are in an environment contaminated with smoke, fire or other hazardous materials.

Rancho Santa Fe Fire Chief Tony Michel said the cylinders, which provide 30 minutes of breath, normally cost about $1,000 per piece. They were able to secure a deal for $300 each.

“We put the money to very good use. This grant will help ensure our firefighters have the equipment they need to stay safe while saving lives in emergency situations,” said Michel, standing in the spacious new engine bay of Fairbanks Ranch Station 3, which opened last year after a revamp that brought it from termite-infested building that couldn’t tolerate earthquakes to “something beautiful for the community to look at.”

The grant is part of a nationwide philanthropic program funded by Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company. According to Linda Tobias, Southern California territory director for Fireman’s Fund, since 2004 they have awarded $30,000 in grants to 1,900 different organizations, including more than $8.5 million in California. Independent insurance agencies and brokers that sell Fireman’s Fund products, such as G.S. Levine, are able to direct these grants.

“This is one of my favorite parts of this job,” Tobias said. “We understand the challenges firefighters face. This isn’t just a check, it’s an investment in firefighters and the people’s lives they save, the businesses they save, and the homes they save.”

Ross Afsahi, president of G.S. Levine, said they are passionate about taking care of their customers and giving back to the community. As his brother is a captain in the San Diego Fire Department, firefighters and fire safety is “near and dear” to his family and he understands the risks they take to protect the lives of others.

“This unit (Rancho Santa Fe) has a particular place in our heart. We are residents here and we remember the Witch Creek Fire of 2007 and how horrific it was and what this fire department did to protect our community,” Afsahi said. “If it wasn’t for them, I can’t imagine how much more devastating it could have been.”

Representatives from GS Levine and the Rancho Santa Fe Fire board were on hand for the check presentation.

“We are truly honored to be able to support our local firefighters who do so much to keep us all safe,” said Gary Levine, CEO of G.S. Levine Insurance Services. “We want to make sure they have the tools and equipment they need to do their jobs safely every day.”