28 MONTEREY COUNTY WEEKLY February 29-march 6, 2024 www.montereycountyweekly.com FACE TO FACE Chris Knapp, 41, is a longtime Salinas resident and has worked for the Salinas Fire Department for over 15 years. In January, during a celebration of SFD’s 150th anniversary, he was recognized as the 2023 Firefighter of the Year. During the ceremonies, Salinas Fire Chief Samuel Klemek said Knapp has influenced over 50 firefighters through his work as captain and instructor in the fire academy. This year Knapp also became division chief and fire marshal, and instead of being at the forefront of responding to calls or training future SPD firefighters, he’s ensuring property owners in the city follow fire and building codes that make it safer for firefighters when they respond to an emergency. Knapp’s career has not followed a straight line. After completing his agricultural systems management degree at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and working two summers at Tanimura & Antle, he realized that ag wasn’t his passion. “During college, things that really fascinated me were the fire service and the military,” he explains. And that is what he did. He sat down and wrote what he liked: a fast-paced work environment that involved physical training and working closely with others. What sealed the deal was when he visited the Monterey County Regional Fire station to learn more about the profession. Knapp then enrolled in Monterey Peninsula College’s Emergency Medical Technician and Fire Protection programs. He swapped nurseries and computers for a firehose. Weekly: What do you like about your job? Knapp: I enjoy the people. The people that we get to serve, when they dial 911 in their greatest time of need, no matter the severity of the problem. We’ve gotten calls for their kitchen sink is leaking and they don’t know how to turn it off, to a clogged toilet all the way to large commercial structure fires or vehicle accidents and things like that. I absolutely love the people that I get to serve with—the men and women of this fire department. Personalities, traits, stories and their experiences, it is a very, very tight-knit group of people that I get to work with. What do you miss most about the firehouse? The kitchen table in the firehouse is like the primary hub of the firehouse. You’re running calls and working out and checking rigs and writing reports, but everybody always comes back to the kitchen table for coffee or for lunch or for dinner. And some of the best conversations and learning experiences happen at the kitchen table. It’s interesting that you offer a oneday training session for city council members. It’s so easy to go to our city council or mayor or city manager and say, “We need to buy this or we need to do this or we want to implement this” and show staff reports and graphs and figures. But what is really going to resonate with them is an experience. We did a truck scenario which simulated getting on a roof, cutting holes in a roof or going around the outside of a building and breaking down doors so that the engine could go inside. Another was a cardiac arrest emergency, a medical type scenario. It was to kind of just give them an idea of what we do on a daily basis. Do you watch firefighter shows? No. Absolutely not. Backdraft is a great movie. I love Backdraft. But in terms of just how fire behaves, and what it does isn’t necessarily completely realistic compared to what it actually is when a house is on fire. Some shows have a good portrayal of what we do; others can emphasize some of the negative things, or the things that go on in the firehouse when we’re not running calls, so it’s kind of 50-50. How do you spend your time when you’re not working? Ninety-five percent of my off time is spent with my family. My wife is in the Air Force—not full-time. Right now she’s in the Utah Air National Guard. It’s a busy household where there’s a lot of high-fives at the front door between my wife and me, and she’s running off to either go to class or go to work and I’m coming in and dinner’s started and I’m making sure homework is done and that kids are happy. We try to spend the summers either camping or going to the lake—or there’s a neighborhood pool right down the street from our house. We spent a lot of time at the pool on the weekends. Is there a bucket list place? I’d like to do a tour of the United States. We have a trailer. The farthest we’ve gone is Mammoth. Hot Work Salinas’ Firefighter of the Year found his passion for helping others and working with a team. By Celia Jiménez Chris Knapp studied agricultural systems management and started a career in the local ag industry before becoming a firefighter. Since then he has trained more than 50 others. DANIEL DREIFUSS Dancer Want to meet Dancer? Please fill out our online adoption questionnaire. Things to love: approx. 7 years old - 6 pounds - male - Chihuahua mix Dancer will put on the best performance of giving out kisses you’ll ever see. This boy is looking to give and receive as much love as possible! He would love to have a doggy sibling or two. As he’s missing parts of his jaw, he prefers to eat wet food only. Ad sponsored by Kalman Weinfeld in honor of his late father who taught him the value of volunteering. If you’d like sponsor our next ad, please give us a call. 831-718-9122 | www.PeaceOfMindDogRescue.org P.O. Box 51554, Pacific Grove, CA 93950 MIDNIGHT This lovely lady is Sweet Sixteen and just lost her entire world when the only person she has ever lived with died. Midnight is a calm and gentle indoor-only cat who enjoys mealtime and napping throughout the day. She’s a perfect dining partner and will keep you company as you watch TV or read. Won’t you help this lonely girl find happiness again? You can learn more about Midnight at www.gocatrescue.org, and fill out an adoption application to give her the Second Chance at a New Beginning. To sponsor our next ad, please call or email goldenoldiescats@gmail.com 831.200.9700 www.gocatrescue.org