Longtime Running Springs firefighter and Fire Chief Tony Grabow took his final bow at the most recent Running Springs Water Board of Directors meeting.
Grabow joined the department in 1987 as a volunteer and he kept the position for four or five years. His ” real job” during many of those years was, so to speak, was working at Genii’s Candles, a wonderful business his in-laws, Gladys and Lincoln Tanaka, owned. The Tanaka’s had purchased the shop from a name many “oldie-but goodie” Running Springs residents will remember, Jane and Woody Woodland. When Tony and his wife Ann had their daughter Naomi, he took a job working at Deer Lick Lumber in Arrowbear.
In 1987 he began working at the water district’s wastewater treatment plant and at the time Jim Towns was the district’s general manager. Former longtime employee Lyle Ferguson was the treatment plant general manager. Grabow’s desire to keep moving forward was responsible for his decision to begin paramedic school when (then) Fire Chief Gary Craw was another familiar name to a lot of local residents. In 1991 or 1992 he began working for the district as a full-fledged firefighter-paramedic.
Right from the start the small department has always had a great deal of support from their grateful communities. The first fire chief was Bruce Horning, then Gary Craw, Dan Wurl, Pat Dennen, Ben Wilkins (who was a paid-call firefighter), then Bill Smith and Tony Grabow. Battalion Chief George Corley will now take over the job as Running Springs Fire Department Chief.
Throughout the decades Tony has seen a lot of transition in the fire department, he said, when we talked about his accomplishments and retirement. “There has been a lot of changes in staff, the required training and many other challenges that make it harder to be a volunteer,” he said. He added that with the amount of training involved today it makes it difficult for volunteers to make the longtime commitment to donate their time and talents no matter how much they might want to serve the community.
One of the things that Grabow feels has helped the department over the past few years has been a program with the state fire agency, CalFire, where five members of the state fire agency are assigned to the Running Springs station. The CalFire crew members are “seasonal” firefighters and Grabow said the program is a great stepping stone for new state firefighters and, he remarked that the arrangement has been a huge benefit to both agencies. The CalFire firefighters have to show up for fire and other calls which makes it a time-consuming program for everyone, but worth it, he said. “Everyone involved has to have a long-time commitment,” he added.
Grabow said that the program between the Running Springs Fire Department and CalFire has been wonderful! He added that if firefighters are required to go into a burning building four firefighters must be involved so having the CalFire firefighters at the station has been a huge asset to the department.
When asked about the most devastating fire that has taken place in the years he’s been fire chief Grabow didn’t take long to say it was the “Slide Fire” because it was the most devastating fire for the Running Springs community as far as property loss. With his years of experience as a firefighter and ultimately fire chief Grabow was on hand for the Slide Fire, the Old Fire, the Mill Fire and the Bridge Fire.
He also said one of the big changes has been the loss of a lot of volunteers who are young and ambitious and are looking for a firefighter career rather than working in a small area with few calls. However, that being said, he also said he is so grateful to the men and women who have come forth and have been part of the department the past few years.
One of the great changes that has taken shape while Grabow has been fire chief is the fact that the fire department now has three ambulances which are staffed by fulltime paramedics. Currently the department has seven fulltime paramedics and five paid-call paramedics,he said.
Many years ago Grabow took EMT classes and after he graduated from the academy he became a volunteer with the Running Springs Fire Department. He laughed when he told me way back then he got paid about $5 per call no matter how dangerous the problem might be but, as he said, he didn’t do it for the money. Eventually he moved up to the position of Battalion Chief about 10 years ago and then as fire chief about five years ago. He said he has enjoyed the relationships that have been made between so many of the Running Springs and Arrowbear Lake firefighters throughout the past years. The two agencies have done a great deal of training together, he said and the two departments support each other on many different types of calls.
Currently, Grabow said, the department has two fulltime firefighters and one paid call firefighter on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is a huge change that has occurred over the past several years. He added that if there is a structure fire it is required that the department have four firefighters available to enter a burning building so that is one of the reasons the department is go grateful to have the paid/call and volunteer firefighters it has.
Sometimes little boys’ dreams of being a fireman come true. Tony Grabow is one of those people whose childhood dream came true! I know the community and the firefighting community wishes him a great retirement. Knowing Tony he’s going to enjoy every minute and we all wish him well! He’s earned that……………………and more!
I know the communities of Running Springs and Arrowbear Lake wish Tony Grabow a great retirement and send them “thanks” for all he’s done!