Paul Whitaker is chief of the Robie Creek Fire Department, also known as the guardian of Highway 21 and all of the waterways surrounding Boise County. His experience in emergency situations is mostly military though he has always been driven by a need to help others, whether it be pulling them from swollen rivers or making them laugh on a bad day.
BW: Tell me about your military background.
PW: I was a paratrooper in the Army and team leader on a Long Range Recon Patrol (LRRP) team for four years. Other jobs I held during my 15 years in the service were infantry drill sergeant (I never yelled) and Company training officer for a Basic Training Company.
I read somewhere that you're a water-rescue expert, too.
I don't know where you read that, but I'm really not. Most of the skills and knowledge I have in that area are from my military training and diving experience as a civilian. In LRRP, you need to be able to deal with anything as far as difficult terrain, and you don't get any help or gear except what you have on you. Rivers, especially fast water, are something I learned to deal with in the service.
I've also heard that your team has done a lot of work outside your jurisdiction.
We don't just help people that live here; we assist anyone in need of emergency assistance no matter where they're from. None of the departments in our area have enough people or gear, so we have to help each other out. People in emergency services step up and take charge in situations, particularly when there is a life safety issue. None of us gets any money and usually no recognition for anything we do, and that's OK. We do this to help the community, not to make money.
But you do have a fundraiser coming up to help pay for operations?
The fundraiser is September 10 from 12 to 5 p.m., at the Robie Creek Park about two miles from Highway 21. We've worked very hard to set this up and had the help of our community and generous donations from many individuals and companies. Activities will include a silent and yelling and screaming auction and a raffle. A Life Flight helicopter is scheduled to be there, and we'll have food and music during the day for everyone. We want to extend an invitation to the public to come up and have fun and take part in the festivities that will raise money to pay for things like insurance maintenance fuel and necessary gear and supplies to conduct training and operations safely.
What's your favorite ice cream?
Chocolate, of course.
Some things you might put in a personal ad about yourself?
I'm 44. I've lived in four countries (Germany, Scotland, Belgium and the USA). Someone once told me I have a great sense of humor. I read a lot. My girlfriend says my dance card is full.