The nearest thing that compares to a “city hall” in Bonita is the fire station. It is that relatively new county building that sits on Bonita Road and boasts one of the finest organizations in the county.
I toured this building the other day for the first time in some years. The occasion was an interview with the retiring Fire Chief, Scott Walker. After 37 years with the Bonita/Sunnyside Fire Protection District, the veteran fire-fighter is hanging it up to pursue those other endeavors that are generally associated with retired people.
Although Walker was born in the Carolinas we could claim him as a native since his parents moved here when he was two years old. In all his growing-up years he lived in Chula Vista.
He attended the local schools, Rosebank Elementary and then the Hilltops, junior and high. He was in the first graduating class at Hilltop who had attended all three years at the new school.
He tells me he was engaged in various jobs after high school, mostly in construction of houses—a task he dearly loves— until 1975 when he was hired by the fire district. And that became his vocation until his retirement the other day.
Walker joins a long list of luminaries who have had the distinction of being fire chief in Bonita. Former chief Hal Minor hired Walker, who had been employed by the National City Fire Department as a dispatcher. On coming to Bonita he went through the chairs, so to speak, in the various fire department ranks until July of 2001 when he was named the chief.
The fire protection district has a long and interesting history. Book-length accounts of the district are on hand at the fire department and at the Bonita Museum. One of the founders of the museum, Dick Yokely, in fact, was a long time employee of the fire district and has written an interesting and concise history of the district. The literature tells us that fires in the valley go back more than 100 years with the burning of the Allen home in 1906. The formation of an official fire department did not come around until much later. The volunteer fire department came into being in 1950 and from then on it evolved into the unit that it currently is; governed by a three man board of directors and a full staff of trained and dedicated professional fire fighters.
From listening to Walker and others connected with the district I daresay that any of these professionals have experienced many of those incidents that would go into historical reading. We know that the majority of the emergency calls are not fire related. They are, however, people-related incidents that very often border on traumatic.
Walker and many of the other fire fighters experience these and the pathos and suffering of victims make a lasting impression. Walker and others are truly a dedicated lot.
I spoke with two of the board members, Tom Pocklington and Robert Scott. They both speak highly of the retiring chief and laud him for the many decisions he made in various incidents, that, in many cases, saved lives and property. They cite, in particular, decisions made when confronted with the wild fires of recent years—fires that could have been extremely destructive had it not been for his leadership.
Walker took me on a tour of the station. We were joined by Tim Isbell, who is the newly appointed chief.
Isbell is a veteran with the district and will be the subject of a column in the near future. They both had to show me – with pride I might add – the brand new fire fighting truck that had just been received. It is a Pierce and it featured a panel of instruments akin to those in large air liners. It joins the present truck, a Beck, and the two will be the hallmark of emergency tasks for some time in our district. Incidentally, the staff has dedicated the new truck to Chief Walker.
Walker, and his wife, Lori, live in Alpine on property which by our standards, could be classified a ranch.
When asked what he will do with his time he replies that he wishes to hone his golf game and learn to play the guitar.
He also mentioned his three children, all grown, and all living nearby. The entire community wishes him well.