Some people find their calling very young, occasionally in the first field they decide to dabble. For Gunnison’s Ernie Young, working with and around fire trucks has stuck.
A longtime local, Young has logged more than 27 years with the Gunnison Volunteer Fire Department holding a variety of roles. He also worked in telecommunications for Time Warner Cable (now Spectrum,) as general manager, working there almost as long as with the Fire Department.
In February 2020, he parlayed his experience into becoming the West Region Aerial Specialist for Rosenbauer America, the world’s largest manufacturer of fire equipment and fire trucks.
“When (Gunnison Volunteer Fire Department) started purchasing trucks, our last three trucks were Rosenbauer fire trucks,” said Young. “After going out for inspections on our trucks for pre-purchase and pre-delivery, I got to know our dealership and started selling trucks for a couple years.”
There was a gap in specialist coverage for the vast, less populated parts of the U.S. that “weren’t getting the love they deserved,” said Young. So he pitched the concept for a new, western specialist position multiple times to Rosenbauer management, touting himself as the ideal candidate.
“Then Rosenbauer offered me a full time job,” Young said.
The job involves multi-point inspections of the rigs upon completion at the manufacturing plants and again after delivery. Young tests out the operational functionality of the machines to ensure they meet the strict quality standards Rosenbauer touts. His territory stretches from Oklahoma to Alaska.
“I travel in partnership with our dealerships and demonstrate our aerial trucks, taking them around the country, showing them off and why we think our product is better than the others,” said Young. “I work with the dealers to find out who is in the market for what trucks and then bring them those models.”
Demonstrations are typically held for fire departments and sometimes city council members who need more definitive reasoning for authorizing the purchase of top-of-the-line machines.
Young’s speed while driving cross country in the aerial fire trucks is limited to a maximum of 58 mph due to the heft and size of the machines.
The highlight of machines like the T-Rex is the telescoping ladder function, increasing capacity for horizontal reach and rotation. “Most people think it’s for going up in the air but it can be for going across a yard of snow to get to a chimney especially when most roofs here are metal and difficult to work on in the winter,” said Young.
Since Young works strictly with aerial apparatuses, the recent wildland fires haven’t changed his day-to-day job duties. However, the pandemic has created travel restrictions and logistical puzzles with crossing state lines.
“Different departments in different states have different requirements,” added Young. “We clean and wipe everything down after our demonstrations and stay distanced.”
“I’m on the road for extensive periods, but when I’m home for long periods I’m still able to volunteer and run calls (for the fire department upon returning,)” said Young.
A perk of traveling around the west is running into previous members of the Gunnison Volunteer Fire Department who’ve been moved to other locations, like Seattle and Fairbanks, Alaska.
He and his wife Jill recently embarked on a trip to Fairbanks to complete a delivery. Being a high school graduate of the area, the trip was a sort of fullcircle moment for Young. “I was able to have dinner with a buddy while we were there,” he said.
Whether demonstrating the specifications and qualities of a fire truck or volunteering with the Gunnison Fire Department, Young is in his element.
“Firefighters are the people I enjoy being around, my extended family, a brotherhood,” he said. “Plus, I learn a lot while I’m in the field that I can bring back to our department. It’s a really neat experience.”
(Morgan Schaefer can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Fire Prevention Week runs through Saturday, Oct. 10. Outside of a pandemic, the week usually entails the Gunnison Volunteer Fire Department visiting schools showing videos, puppet shows and doing fire truck demonstrations. Visit nfpa. org to participate in the week virtually through videos, games and teaching materials.