Published: 1:00 pm, Fri. Feb. 26th, 2016Updated: 1:42 pm
Captain Erik Nunez and firefighter Dakota Corbell of the Artesia Fire Department have spent the past few years working together, experiencing some of the toughest, most fun, and wildest predicaments, as well as successes.
And neither of them would trade it for the world.
“I’m convinced this is the best job anyone can have,” said Corbell. “I’m all about the adrenaline rush, and it’s always there.”
From the widespread flooding and evacuations of Lakewood’s SKP Ranch RV Park in 2013 and 2014, to teaching classes at the academy together, to the recent winter storm Goliath and the multitude of calls due to the virtual shutdown of the city, the two agree there’s never a dull moment at the AFD.
“There’s definitely no such thing as an average day,” said Nunez. “There’s something special and unique about every single day.”
Now Nunez and Corbell can add something new to their list of successes: being named 2015 Fire Officer of the Year and Firefighter of the Year respectively at Tuesday’s Artesia City Council meeting.
“I think we were both really surprised to hear we received the awards,” said Nunez. “I wouldn’t have gotten this award if it weren’t for every other guy on our shift; we go on a call and we all work together as a team.”
The AFD is structured with 30 personnel: three shifts – A, B and C – of 10 personnel on each shift. These shifts make up the operations of the department and operate out of the two main stations at the Public Safety Complex and at Seventh Street and Mahone Drive.
According to Nunez, the two consider their awards an entire shift award. He and Corbell are both members of Shift B.
“It’s like a full-shift award; the other guys were just as happy as either of us were,” said Nunez. “It’s a shift pride thing. It’s not an individual award by any means.”
Since the 10 people on Shift B are together so often, Nunez feels it’s its own little family.
“It’s really not like being at work; it’s fun being here,” said Nunez. “And since we’re together for 48 hours at a time, we’ve become like a family – probably somewhat of a dysfunctional family at this point.”
Corbell thinks of each day on the job as a learning opportunity.
“I teach these guys everything I know and I hope they’ll all teach me everything they know,” said Corbell. “This way, we build each other up.”
One of the things the award-winners love most about their job at the fire department is the fact they are able to attend trainings they otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to attend if they worked at other departments.
“This department is unique because we’re open to so many opportunities in terms of training,” said Corbell. “If you want to attend some kind of training you’re interested in, you’re pretty much guaranteed you can. That’s unheard of in other departments.”
Both Nunez and Corbell are appreciative of the department and of Fire Chief J.D. Hummingbird.
“He’s the one that said ‘yes’ to every training we could ever want to do,” said Corbell. “He’s the reason we both got these awards.”