Santa Paula Firefighter of the Year Captain Jerry Byrum (right) accepts the Fire Department’s highest award from Fire Chief Rick Araiza.

Captain Jerry Byrum selected Santa Paula Firefighter of the Year

December 28, 2011
Santa Paula News

When he was a 9-year-old kid Jerry Byrum would spend hours sitting in his neighbor’s car, a Ventura County Fire Department vehicle assigned to Hoppy Mumford. “I’d sit there in that car whenever I could,” and Byrum said the day finally came when Mumford asked Jerry if he wanted to come along on a fire call, but only with permission from his mother June.

About nine years later, in 1989, Byrum became a Santa Paula Fire volunteer. And now, after more than 20 years, he is a full-time captain - and the SPFD Firefighter of the Year.

Byrum was given the department’s top honor first at the SPFD Family Christmas Party held at the Community Center, then later at the December 17 Santa Paula Firefighters’ Association & Santa Paula Police Officers’ Association joint holiday celebration. The associations’ private dinner was held at Logsdon’s at the Airport, now undergoing renovations to reopen under new ownership.

Byrum was on duty during the ceremony, not unusual for the firefighter who is a city native. Also attending were Vice Mayor Ralph Fernandez, Councilmen Rick Cook and Fred Robinson, and City Manager Jaime Fontes, who were introduced by Master of Ceremonies Firefighter and SPFFA Vice President Andy VanSciver. 

SPPOA President Sgt. Ishmael Cordero, who co-chaired the event with SPFD Captain Gil Segovia, noted that SPPD Lt. Troyce Reynolds and retired Lt. Carlos Juarez were also in the crowd. 

Fire Chief Rick Araiza said, Byrum “has grown so much with us since he started with the SPFD when he was only 18 years old. Jerry was honored as Firefighter of the Year in about 1991,” four years before he joined the department when it started a partial staff of full timers. He will also receive the Kiwanis Firefighter of the Year Award in September.

Byrum has a particular talent with electronics and high tech gadgetry that Araiza said greatly benefits the fire department. “Jerry works on our radios and in fact improved our system considerably... he is highly regarded by his peers,” who selected Byrum for the award. 

VanSciver, known as “Radar” for his uncanny ability to find most anything needed by the SPFD, said Byrum is a legend in his own right when it comes to communication and safety equipment as well as computers. As a safety inspector Byrum coordinated the new cadre of iPads that now inventory, track and measure the water pressure of each fire hydrant in the city to be marked accordingly. 

Byrum, noted VanSciver, “even takes care of the soda machine” at the fire stations. “He’s been with the fire department a very, very long time,” and is admired for the way he always “steps up” whenever help is needed.

Juarez, who is in the Cruise Knights Band with Byrum, noted he is a “great guitarist and family man” to wife Devora and their children Dylan and Catelynn. 

“It’s weird receiving an award for doing my job,” and Byrum said, “I’m really honored and appreciate this... I love my job,” a career he knew even as a boy he wanted, and it turned out the way he thought it would. Being a firefighter, he added, “is one of the best jobs in the world.”

Later Byrum said he had many career role models: “Hoppy Mumford, he has and will always be my mentor and was responsible for my choosing the fire service.... The fastest I ever ran was into my house to ask my mom if I could go on a call with him.”

Former Chief Paul Skeels and Asst. Chief Harold Carpenter, retired firefighters Ruben Gomez and Ed Geis “were all very influential towards who I am today. It’s like I had six Dads... it’s been a fun and wonderful career.... And I am very thankful for my wonderful wife, who has supported me the past 20 years. I have missed a lot of family events,” but Byrum said Devora “has always understood that it comes with being married to a firefighter.”

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