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DMFD volunteers fulfilling lifelong goals through work with fire crews


Jessica Watts

NORTH VALLEY – Every first Saturday of each month, dreams are made. Zane Michels has always wanted to be a firefighter, and once a month he gets to be one. Zane was born with autism, but he does not let that stop him from pursuing his dreams.

Paul Schickel, community services program coordinator for the Daisy Mountain Fire Department, met Zane and his caregiver Sydney Dinsmore at Anthem Days last year. DMFD had a display up when Zane and Sydney stopped by to see the fire trucks and meet the firefighters. According to Schickel, over the next month, arrangements were made to set up monthly visits. Despite meeting Zane and Sydney almost a year ago, Schickel still remembers meeting them.

“I remember Zane that day had a blue firefighter shirt on and he was excited to see the fire trucks and be around firefighters,” said Schickel.

After the arrangements were set up for Zane’s monthly visits, Schickel soon found out that he was not the only one in the house. David Bland and Arnie Hett also live with Zane and they too would come and help out at the fire station.

“Those crews take really good care of them,” said Schickel. “So it is just a good way for us to connect with him and the community.”

Not only do they get to help out around the station, they are also working on social interaction as well. Due to the different shifts of the firefighters, Zane, David, and Arnie have a different crew helping them almost every visit. This is a great way for them to meet and interact with new people on every visit. Houston Todd, captain at Fire Station 141, says their social interaction has improved drastically.

“There has been a big difference since the first day he showed up till now and how they have interacted,” said Todd. “They were shy and timid initially and now they just have become a part of the crew.”

They will help the crew wash the floors and trucks, take out the trash, and sometimes ride in the fire trucks. During their visits they learn how to interact without having Dinsmore there, which helps with their social interaction even more. Due to the firefighters being on duty at the time of the visits, Dinsmore will stay on site just in case they get a call and need to leave the station.

Todd went on to say that it is a huge benefit for both of us and we love having them come and help volunteer.

The crews try to make sure they do something new every visit. For instance, during their last visit the crew showed them the inside of the ambulance, along with explaining the purpose for the ambulance.

 “Zane’s family is just beside themselves that they let them do this,” Dinsmore said. “They know when it is the first Saturday of the month.”

It is not hard to motivate them to come here, Dinsmore said.

“All morning long we can motivate him to come here, he just loves coming here and they are just so good with them.”

It will be a year at this year’s Anthem Days since Schickel has seen Zane.

“I am hoping that they will come by at Anthem Days and say hi,” Schickel said. “We always like to see folks and follow up and see how things are going.”