Del Norte — The Del Norte Fire Department held its first recognition dinner for current and former firefighters at Tiger Fieldhouse on Jan. 27. Del Norte High School was home for many department members in attendance, a nostalgic return as well as a reunion with other firefighters.
Following the Pledge of Allegiance, Fire Chief Gilbert Trujillo identified audience members and thanked them for serving the community in other capacities. All three Rio Grande County Commissioners stood to be recognized (Gene Glover, Suzanne Bothell and John Noffsker). Del Norte Mayor (and long-time volunteer) Chris Trujillo was also in attendance, receiving recognition along with Rio Grande County Sheriff Don McDonald and representatives from the Colorado State Patrol, Del Norte Ambulance, the Del Norte School District and members of the Del Norte Fire District board of directors.
After most people finished eating, Fire Chief Trujillo presented a video narrated by Paul Harvey. Footage of firefighters blended with family scenes to present the whole picture. Firefighters don’t work alone.The Del Norte Fire Department made a concerted effort to invite family members to the inaugural celebration, specifically to recognize their role in volunteer firefighting.
Observing a moment of silence and ceremonial bell-ringing, the honor roll of fallen firefighters included 27 names of people who died in the line of duty serving Del Norte. Some names date back to service during the 1970s, audience members estimated.
One honored retiree had served almost 26 years before retiring in 1982. Mayor Trujillo retired in 2016 with decades of experience. According to Trujillo family calculations, 12 members spanning two generations have volunteered and served for the department in some capacity over the years. Combined, they have 168 years of experience putting out fires in Del Norte.
But fires don’t regard city limits. They hop highways. They flare up everywhere, and fire crews support each other when the flames fly too high. In early 2018, Adelmo “Demo” Trujillo was part of a team providing mutual aid to the South Fork Fire Department to control a predawn fire at the Kawasaki dealership in South Fork. Demo Trujillo fell from the second story, fractured seven ribs, broke an elbow and flew to Penrose Hospital in Colorado Springs for caution and recovery.
All in the line of duty, the sacrifice is worthy of honor but ironically avoided by volunteers. As Fire Chief Trujillo explained before the ceremony, “We’re going to give certificates of appreciation. But if it was up to them, they say they don’t want recognition. They just want to do their jobs.”
Dale Weaver, chairman of the Del Norte Fire District board of directors, gave closing statements and thanked everyone for their continued support of the district and the firefighters themselves. Although this won’t be an annual event, Fire Chief Trujillo promised a repeat recognition ceremony.