San Antonio volunteer firefighters now equipped to respond to emergencies on Petaluma River, other waterways

  • San Anotonio Volunteer Fire Department Cpt. Matt Mattei, left, works with his water rescue team during training in Petaluma, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012.

Ron Pomi has seen a lot of good ideas come and go in 47 years with the San Antonio Volunteer Fire Department, which serves an unincorporated area of Sonoma County south of Petaluma.

When volunteer firefighters Jason Zajonc and Matt Mattei approached Pomi last year with the idea to form a water rescue team in the department, the chief told them to work up a plan so that he could see "what it looks like."

He couldn't be prouder of what they came up with.

"They did a great job," he said.

Thanks to the two firefighters' efforts, the San Antonio department is now equipped to respond to emergencies on the Petaluma River and other waterways in Sonoma and Marin counties.

As a former All-American swimmer in college, Zajonc is perfectly suited to lead the team. Mattei, who is a volunteer fire captain with San Antonio, also is a San Francisco police officer. Both men live in Petaluma.

"We do it because we love it," Zajonc, a technology consultant, said of volunteering.

San Antonio was formed in 1966 by local ranchers after a wildland fire swept through the Petaluma Valley. The department responds to fires, crashes, medical calls and other emergencies in a 20-mile area that includes a stretch of the Petaluma River.

Zajonc said he and Mattei saw a need for a water rescue team after the Petaluma Fire Department lost theirs to a spate of retirements.

The pair raised $30,000, mostly in contributions from the Sonoma County Fire and Emergency Services Department and Fireman's Fund of Novato. The money paid for a 14-foot Zodiac boat, trailer, suits and other equipment.

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