Ernie Rodriguez

 “I was really interested in something that would serve the entire community.”

Ernie Rodriguez

Ernie Rodriguez

Probationary FFI

Station 1: Jackson

Where are you from? I’m originally from southern California, from LA County. 

How did you find yourself in Jackson? I was working in Tahoe way back when, and I worked with some people who were working in Jackson in the summers out at Jackson Lake Lodge. I needed a little change of scenery, so I came out here for two summers, and I moved back out in 2004 permanently. I just needed something different. 

What is your role in the department? I am a volunteer out of Station 1.

How long have you been a part of JH Fire/EMS? I officially started in February of 2022.

What made you want to join this department? It’s been on my radar for the last ten years. Back in 2010, I got heavily involved in volunteering within our community. I wanted to find all the nonprofits that did their own work here, but I was really interested in something that would serve the entire community. I had friends who were firefighters, and I think it always appealed to me. I think subconsciously when 9/11 happened, it kind of made me really want to step up to the plate. I just wanted to give back to my whole community. Not to mention: all of it is such a fun challenge.

What are your current certs? EVOC, Fire 1, Hazmat, I’m in EMR right now, and I’ll get my Red Card in the spring.

What are your future goals in the department? Seeing as I am the age that I am, I foresee myself trying to give the department a bare minimum of 5 years, and we’ll see where we go from there. At that point I will be 61, so I don’t know what the requirements of the department are for after that. I’m only interested in being a volunteer and right now I’m just trying to become a full member and not a probationary member.

What do you do for work?  I work with kids. I’m a ski and snowboard instructor in the wintertime and a counselor in the summertime, both at JHMR.

What do you do in your free time? I generally give it to organizations. I do a lot of stuff with Team Rubicon, a disaster response organization, so I’m often on the Gulf Coast helping with hurricanes. So overall, I’m either at home relaxing and watching sports or I’m out giving my time.

What would you say is your favorite part of volunteering? Obviously, helping people is first and foremost for me. But it’s also the people you meet and the people you help that make it worth it. 

The most challenging part? I don’t know if I want to say time commitment or the studying that I have to do to be proficient at doing the things necessary to help people, but both of those things have been really challenging. I guess they’re sort of one and the same in some ways. I just learn differently than other folks, so it takes me a long time to read all the stuff we have to read.

What advice would you give new recruits? Same advice that was given to me: you’re gonna want to go hard in the beginning, but pace yourself, don’t let yourself get burned out. Fulfill your requirements, and make the commitment. 

What do you wish you had known when starting? Be prepared to read. A lot a lot. When I was handed the books, it was daunting: they’re huge! That’s just me, but it is definitely a huge time commitment up front.

What is the most valuable skill or trait for someone to have in this line of work? Patience. 

What do you think you bring to the department? A willingness to learn and a commitment to the department. Overall, just wanting to be there to help and make a difference if I can. 

Who is someone that you look up to? Matt Redwine. I’ve known him for quite a long time and I’ve always looked up to him. I know quite a few people in the department from before joining, and he’s always been really helpful. 

Do you have a favorite hazard that we respond to? What I found going through the fire academy and what I think appeals to me most is the fire side of things, and the actual search and rescue portion of it. So more like truck company work. But, I’m still new, still kind of finding my way, but what I’ve noticed through all the training is that those are the things that seem to appeal to me most. I feel a little bit more comfortable doing those things, but I’m still figuring everything out in the trainings. I definitely gravitate towards more of the dangerous stuff, more of the high risk stuff I guess. It is a fully encompassed department in terms of hazards though, and that’s really cool.