75-Year-Old Grandmother Joins California’s Volunteer Firefighters

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In a heartwarming culmination of dedication and community spirit, the CAL FIRE Butte County volunteer program recently completed its latest round of training for a group of 19 new volunteer firefighters. Among them is a remarkable individual, 75-year-old Mary Jarschke, whose enthusiasm and commitment shine as she embarks on this new chapter of service.

A Remarkable Journey Begins

The training program, which concluded its final day recently, marks a significant milestone for Butte County as it welcomes a fresh batch of volunteers into its firefighting ranks. For Mary Jarschke, a retired registered nurse and survivor of the devastating Camp Fire, this opportunity represents a chance to give back to her community in a profound way.

Expressing her excitement, Jarschke reflects on the timing of her decision, “I keep thinking, ‘man if I started when I was 30, I would be,’ excuse the expression, but badass. I mean, it’s still pretty badass at 75, but really, I wish I had done it sooner.”

A Lifelong Desire to Serve

Living in Concow, Jarschke acknowledges the unique needs of her community, particularly in terms of medical assistance. Despite recognizing that she may not be the one pulling someone from a burning building, she emphasizes the importance of contributing in any way possible. “I decided that this is something that I can do. I’m clearly not gonna be the one dragging somebody out of a burning building most likely. But I wanted to do the whole program to know if I could help somewhere that I can,” says Jarschke.

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Inclusive Recruitment by CAL FIRE

Butte CAL FIRE Battalion Chief Jordan Hale underscores the inclusivity of the program, encouraging any able-bodied individual aged 18 and above to apply. He highlights the value of having community members participate, bringing local knowledge and acting as a vital link between the firefighting force and the community.

“It really helps us out to have those folks from the community to kind of provide some background and local knowledge and kind of be that conduit to the community, so we welcome anyone to come and help us out,” states Chief Hale.

A Journey of Overcoming Challenges

For Mary Jarschke, the training program was not without its challenges. Yet, her determination and the overwhelming support she received kept her going. Reflecting on her experience, she encourages others contemplating joining the program to take the leap.

“Just try! I mean, the support has been phenomenal. As I went along I said I don’t know if I was gonna make it through the program because it’s pretty arduous but I’d say I’m just gonna try. So every day I’d show up and say I’m gonna try, and at the end of the day, I feel pretty proud of myself actually,” expresses Jarschke.

Historic Graduation and a Proud Volunteer

The culmination of this journey is set for Saturday, the 10th, with the graduation ceremony. Mary Jarschke, buoyed by her sense of accomplishment, plans to be stationed at the Concow station. Battalion Chief Hale notes that she will be the oldest volunteer firefighter in the program’s history, marking a testament to her resilience and determination.

A Testament to Community Strength

As Mary Jarschke and her fellow graduates prepare to don their firefighter gear, the Butte County community stands witness to the strength that arises when individuals come together for a shared purpose. Their commitment reflects a broader narrative of resilience, unity, and the unwavering spirit of those who choose to serve their communities, embodying the essence of what makes Butte County truly exceptional.


In celebrating the latest cohort of CAL FIRE volunteer firefighters, Mary Jarschke’s story stands out as a testament to the enduring spirit of community service. Her journey, marked by passion and perseverance, inspires not only her fellow volunteers but the entire community. As the CAL FIRE Butte County program welcomes these new members, it marks a continuation of a proud tradition of selfless service and community strength.

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