Get to know your fellow NVFC members!
TOMAS "HAWK" MCKINNON - CLARK COUNTY (NV) FIRE DEPARTMENT - RURAL DIVISION
Tell us about your department.
Clark County, Nevada, is an area of 8,061 square miles with a resident population of over 2 million. The Clark County Fire Department covers 7,500 square miles with 10 rural volunteer stations providing service and coverage to 7,000 square miles. This is accomplished between 10 rural volunteer stations that are staffed by highly motivated and trained personnel.
You fulfill a lot of duties at your department. Do you have any favorite or least favorite tasks?
Favorite tasks include building inspections and hydrant inspections. Hydrant inspection for us is to flow it and see if they have their three feet of clearance. My least favorite task is asking other volunteer members to do something that is already on the task list for everyone to do.
What is one volunteer moment that makes you proud?
One was taking one of my volunteer members who was having trouble backing up the unit and showing him how to properly use the mirrors and judge the distance while backing up. Now he is an engineer at a paid department. He sent me an email letting me know when they promoted him to an engineer and that everyone was surprised how he handled the unit.
How do you balance volunteering with work and family?
I treat the volunteer work as a job. The way I was brought up was simple: If you commit yourself to something, paid or not, you treat it as a job. The family has always been around first responders, so we are used to family members leaving at all hours or not showing up for a day or days. With my better half, when I get on her nerves, she always says to me, "Aren't you supposed to be at the station?"
Tell us about your favorite music, movies, and TV shows.
Since high school and to this date, you can catch me whistling or singing the "MASH" theme song. I listen to all kinds of music, from Native American music to salsa music from the south. I have several favorite movies, but my top two are "Backdraft" and "We Were Soldiers." Favorite TV shows are "Emergency!" (Mike Stocker, the engineer on the show, was my explorer captain) and CSI.
You mentioned "Backdraft." What do you think about the portrayal of firefighters in movies and television?
Even though Hollywood does their research for a good movie like "Backdraft," they add their own touch to capture the audience. The cameras can't see in total darkness, so their interior firefighting shots can't be realistic. If they were, you'd lose the audience. "9-1-1 Lone Star," "9-1-1" Los Angeles, "Station 19" - for me, they are comedy, but for the majority of the audiences it gives a false impression of what the fire service does.
What advice would you give new volunteers?
"You gotta have heart!" Yes, I stole that line from the movie "The Replacements," but it is true because you are not getting paid to serve the community. You have to have heart and give of yourself. Don't expect anything in return. You are not going to see the end product of your volunteering service unless it's a fire. You'll see the fire out, but the small calls, the walk-ups at the station - you will not see the impact you had on those individuals.