Cathie Anderson: On the worst day of your life, you just might see a Sacramento firefighter

Published: Tuesday, Apr. 8, 2014 - 12:00 am

Chad Augustin dashes out to meet people on the worst days of their lives. A captain in the Sacramento Fire Department, Augustin recently received an award for his heroism from the Sally and Hubert Mee Fund at the Sacramento Region Community Foundation.

And, yes, the 40-year-old Woodland native did rescue a man from a burning building.

“That night was an excessively busy night in Del Paso Heights,” Augustin said. “We had gotten eight calls after midnight. ... We got there, and there were people everywhere saying, ‘Hey, there’s somebody trapped inside.’ There was a lot of fire.”

Firefighter Danson Drummer twice went into the building to find the missing person. The second time he came out, his gear was on fire. Augustin patted out the flames, then told Drummer to grab the hose. This time, Augustin went into the building. He found the victim and met Drummer as he was pulling in the hose. Together they got the victim to safety, then started to work on the apartment fire. When Augustin accepted the Mee Award, he did so on behalf of his whole crew. He split the prize money with Drummer and engineer Andy Ramos. They all donated the money to local causes.

The thing about Del Paso Heights is that firefighters there get the opportunity to practice everything they’ve trained for, Augustin said. Everyone in his station has to get special certifications and additional qualifications to work there. Some firefighters go their whole careers, he said, and they never find a victim. In Del Paso Heights, home to some of the city’s poorest residents, people light candles when they can’t afford electricity, or they heat their homes with the kitchen oven. Such measures often spark fatal fires.

Growing up, Augustin was a standout wrestler and a Bee paperboy. He knew from the time that he was quite young that he wanted to be a paramedic. He became one in Pismo Beach and later came to Sacramento as a paramedic-firefighter. Fire departments are always looking for good paramedics, he said.

After Augustin and Drummer knocked out the fire, Drummer realized that he had suffered burns during his rescue attempts. Augustin went into paramedic mode, taking him to an ambulance, starting intravenous fluids and giving him painkillers. Augustin has passed the test for battalion chief and is on a waiting list for an assignment. Every week, he also works a 24-hour shift aboard a life-flight helicopter. He said both jobs can be physically demanding, but what is equally as challenging is the mental rigor.

“We’re problem-solving all the time,” he explained, “and we’re only looking at how to solve one problem at a time because if we think anything more than that, sometimes it can be overwhelming.”

During his time as a Sacramento firefighter and life-flight paramedic, Augustin also has won the international Tim Hynes Award, which annually recognizes a single paramedic who has demonstrated exceptional leadership. He was recognized for working with the Sacramento Police Department to create a tactical emergency medical services team to accompany and treat SWAT officers injured in the line of duty. In fact, Augustin served on that panel with the other recipient of this year’s Mee Fund Award, Sacramento Police Officer Doug Rosin.

Mee had worked as a lifeguard during World War II, and he swam a wounded fellow seaman to safety during the sinking of the USS Quincy at Guadalcanal. He and his wife created a fund with the community foundation to recognize selfless acts that saved lives. The Mees have since died, but their daughters return to Sacramento to participate in presenting the award.

Lessons in success

When Sutter Davis CEO Janet Wagner applied for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, she had to submit a lengthy application detailing how processes had changed and what results they achieved. That certainly prepared her to give her acceptance speech Sunday night at a ceremony in Baltimore, where U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker presented her with the award. You can read some details on how Sutter Davis won the award at www.nist.gov/baldrige/award_recipients/sutter-davis-hospital.cfm. Wagner said: “Our team at Sutter Davis Hospital showed great courage and resilience by participating in the detailed scrutiny of the Baldrige Performance Excellence program, and they showed fortitude to be open to feedback and continue to improve processes.” The first Baldrige awards were given in 1988, and since then, only 95 organizations have been honored. Other winners include Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Cadillac and 3M. ...

The California Lawyers for the Arts will provide a 90-minute workshop Thursday on how nonprofits can build a fund development program. Allison Cagley, the director of development for California Musical Theatre, will talk about what she’s done there and at other organizations. Cagley has experience in strategic planning, grant writing, special events, direct mail appeals and capital campaigns. The event will start at 6 p.m. at the offices of California Lawyers for the Arts, 2015 J St., Suite 204, but attendees should register first at www.calawyersforthearts.org.


Call The Bee’s Cathie Anderson, (916) 321-1193. Follow her on Twitter @CathieA_SacBee.

Read more articles by Cathie Anderson





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