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Firefighters Honored - February 24, 2022


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(Photo credit Valerie Hansen- pictured left to right) Eng. Manuel  Burciaga, Capt. John Evenson, Fire Chief Justin McDonald, Capt. Evan Gibbs and Eng. Tyler Sung

McKinleyville, CA – Career staff and their families, volunteers, Board Directors, and community members gathered at the Arcata Fire District Headquarters to honor several Fire Captains and Engineers for their actions, leadership, and courage during two different calls for service late last year. 

In November 2021, Fire Captain John Evenson, Fire Captain Evan Gibbs, and Engineer Manuel Burciaga responded to a newborn baby and mother along the Mad River. 

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(Photo credit Matt Filar) Chief McDonald awarding Capt. Evan Gibbs

Since the nearest rescue vehicle was approximately ½ mile east of the patient’s location, the engine company had to hike in with their equipment.

Due to the condition of the newborn, Fire Captain Evenson wrapped the baby in a jacket, held the child in his arms, and ran back to the awaiting ambulance.

After turning the baby over to paramedics, Captain Evenson ran back to assist his crew and the ambulance with carrying the mother out in a stokes basket.

Both mother and baby were transported to the hospital.

It is for their actions at this incident that Captain Evenson, Captain Gibbs, and Engineer Burciaga were awarded the Arcata Fire District’s Commendation Award which represents individuals who display outstanding personal performance during emergent situations. This is only the third time the District has issued this award.

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(Photo credit Matt Filar) Engineers Tyler Sung and Manuel Burciaga

Also, late last year, Captain John Evenson, along with his crew of Engineer Manuel Burciaga and Engineer Tyler Sung, was dispatched to a structure fire with persons trapped.

While Engineers Burciaga and Sung provided patient care and deployed hose line in preparation for extinguishment, Captain Evenson entered the smoke-filled building, located the severely burned patient and, with assistance from Engineer Sung, carried her downstairs to awaiting paramedics. Evenson then returned and extinguished the fire.


It is because of Engineers Burciaga and Sung’s diligent teamwork, proficient actions, and ability to conduct their duties without direct supervision with just seven months on the job, that they are awarded the Arcata Fire District’s Commendation ribbon.

Manuel will receive a bronze star for his ribbon signifying this is his second award and Tyler will receive a ribbon.

Fire Captain John Evenson is the first recipient of the Medal of Gallantry. He acted without hesitation, displayed leadership and courage, and was instrumental in the rescue of the occupant from the bedroom. It is for all these reasons that he is being awarded the Arcata Fire District’s Medal of Gallantry.

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(Photo credit Matt Filar) Captain Evenson and Chief McDonald 

“I am extremely proud to be able to recognize these four individuals for their exemplary actions. We may be a small group of firefighters, but my heartfelt opinion is that the team kicked ass and did our community proud!” expressed the appreciative Fire Chief, Justin McDonald.

After receiving his medal, Captain Evenson spoke about being able to use the skills they have been practicing for years to help a life. He finished his brief comments with, “I feel blessed to have that opportunity, we love our jobs, and I am thankful to be here.”

Fire Captain wearing a newly issued Medal of Gallantry
(Photo credit Matt Filar) Captain Evenson wearing his Medal of Gallantry
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