2017-03-17 / Neighbors
Firefighter living boyhood dream
‘Right at home’ in yellow suit since fourth-grade event
It was “Bring Your Dad to School Day,” and Buckles was a fourth-grader at what is now Flory Academy Of Sciences and Technology in Moorpark.
He stepped into the heavy yellow suit brought by his buddy’s dad and felt right at home.
“I’ll never forget that day and how good it felt,” Buckles told the Acorn. “Just putting on the gear gave me a huge sense of pride.”
Now, nearly 25 years later, the Moorpark native is living his boyhood dream, protecting people and property in and around Camarillo as a member of the Ventura County Fire Department.
Buckles was recently named Firefighter of the Year by the department, which he joined about three years ago after serving four years with the Morongo Valley Fire Department in San Bernardino County.
Together with other award recipients, Buckles were honored March 2 during a ceremony at the Padre Serra Center in Camarillo.
“It’s super humbling,” the 34-year-old said. “I work with a great bunch of guys and any could have taken the honor.”
Buckles works out of Fire Station 54 at Arneill Road and Pickwick Drive in Camarillo.
He said his work is challenging but extremely rewarding.
It also keeps him on his toes, as “no two calls are the same,” he said.
“People call us when they’re having their worst day,” the firefighter said. “We never know what we are going to see.
“The biggest challenge is probably understanding or digesting those really critical calls that include maybe an infant or an elderly person.”
It is also challenging, Buckles said, to spend long periods of time away from his wife, Trisha, and their three young sons when he’s fighting wildfires that require him to be gone longer than a typical 24-hour shift.
But working alongside his colleagues makes all the difference.
“It’s a family-like atmosphere,” he said. “It’s awesome to go to work with some of your best friends.”
Buckles said he also enjoys helping people prepare for and respond to natural and man-made disasters as an instructor with the Community Emergency Response Team program, or CERT.
The firefighter, who took CERT classes for his own benefit nine years ago, said it is important that people know what to do when disaster strikes.
“It’s not a matter of if, but when a large-scale disaster happens,” said the Moorpark resident, who became a certified CERT instructor two years ago. “There are not always enough first responders to respond (during large-scale disasters), so the more people we can train through the CERT program, the better.”
With that in mind, he’s taught CERT classes in several Ventura County cities, most recently, in Simi Valley and Moorpark.
He’s also taught the course at Simi Valley and Oak Park high schools, where it is offered as an elective.
Participants learn a broad range of skills, including triage, first aid and how to extinguish fires.
“ The high school students bring a new level of energy and commitment,” Buckles said.
“To see these young adults truly embrace the curriculum, it’s rewarding and it’s inspiring.”
Capt. Pat Kelley, who manages the county’s CERT program, said Buckles is reliable and always willing to jump in to help out.
“These adjunct programs take a lot of dedication and can impact your schedule quite severely,” the captain said. “I always know the students are going to be in good hands if Steve has the class.”
Kelley said Buckles is a mentor and role model to the students he teaches.
“One of the things that makes him such a good instructor is that he’s really approachable,” Kelley said of Buckles. “You can tell they really look up to him.”
Buckles serves as the emergency preparedness coordinator for his church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Moorpark.
The firefighter said he’s honored to be able to do what he does and serve as a role model to others—yellow suit and all.
“I’ve always had this goal of having my life mean something, especially when I die,” the honoree said. “I couldn’t have chosen a better profession for that.”