by Photo by Sarah Berjan

The South Bay Historical Society celebrated the Chula Vista Fire Department Centennial on Oct. 21 at the South Chula Vista Library branch, where a presentation by Fire Chief Harry Muns was delivered. 

Sandra Scheller curated “Remember Us The Holocaust” (RUTH) exhibit in honor of her late mother Ruth Sax, a Holocaust survivor from the South Bay. The exhibit has been up since Jan. 12, 2020 and will continue to run until August 2022 at the Chula Vista Heritage Museum. The pandemic forced the exhibit to close for a short period of time in which Scheller, along with Harry Orgovan, created a YouTube show called “Our Lives, Our Future” which featured holocaust survivors along with key figures who made strides in Chula Vista’s history. 

According to Scheller “Our Lives, Our Future” began with nothing more than an IPhone, a phone stand and a microphone and has reached over 100,000 people globally. The show reached figures like the grandson of Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, author and holocaust survivor who traveled from Austria to view the exhibit. 

President for Friends of The Chula Vista Library, Shauna Stokes spoke, along with Mayor Mary Casillas Salas. The night continued with the CVFD Chief Harry Muns who presented the department’s 100 year history with contributions from Camila Gavin, the daughter of late fire Capt. William Gavin who served the department from 1956-1976. Camila curated the museum in her father's honor. 

During the celebration the South Bay Historical Association also appointed Harry Orgovan as society president. Former president Cesar Castro opened the presentation, passing the baton to Orgovan. Mitch Beauchamp was named treasurer and Susan Johnson as secretary. 

“Our current first responders are extremely important to us. They are the center of our community. They are always there ready to respond to any emergency that needs their call. They’re all incredible people. They should be honored by our community for their excellent service and for giving their lives to the community they serve” Orgovan said.  

The evening concluded with Chief Muns leading a showing of the current exhibit on display. Visitors can expect to see the 1923 Seagrave pumper engine called the “Old Goose”, which is in the process of final restoration according to Orgovan. One will also be able to see documents pulled from archives and multi-media detailing the department’s origins, 13 biographies of past chiefs, firefighters over the years, fire apparatuses and other educational materials and emergency kits for residents. The exhibit will also highlight women of the fire department, and the utilization of dogs in fire investigations and search and rescue missions.  

“It’s a very interesting history” Orgovan said. “One of the things highlighted is the old Sparky helmet. The fire department used to go around to the elementary schools. They drove a fire truck to the elementary school and they had a man dressed up as a dalmatian named Sparky. I actually remember this from my childhood. I’m 68 years old now,” 

“Our firefighters do more than just put out fires. They save lives. We saw that during the pandemic where they really stepped up to the plate and became first responders by going into our communities to administer vaccines. They really went above and beyond in serving the community. I expect in the next hundred years of this fire department we will continue to see that wonderful service to our community” Mayor Salas said.  

Currently, the CVFD’s ten fire stations respond to nearly 23,000 calls for their service annually while serving a population of 275,000. Everyday there are 49 firefighters on duty, fire Stations No. 3 and No. 5 were relocated to new, state of the art buildings in May.

The exhibit will be on display for the duration of the year at the library, located at 389 Orange Ave in Chula Vista.

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