Courage – Displaying integrity despite obstacles and challenges.
By Spokane Valley Fire Department Fire Chief, Frank Soto Jr.
The fire service is an industry where firefighters are the first-line problem solvers in the communities they service. We experience every emergency that occurs, in real time, with our community daily. Every vehicle collision, fire, medical issue, water rescue – any emergency call to 911 needing a Fire Department response – we’re there. In fact, every 23 minutes, over 22,000 times last year, we responded to an emergency within our community.
Why does this display courage?
Firefighters share in every painful moment our community members suffer every day of their career. It’s a “calling” that always requires a response. As first responders, we must have the continued courage to serve, again and again, shift after shift. Experiencing others worst moments, day after day, can and will eventually break us all down. However, being able to serve our community in other ways, at our own pace, and on our days off, provides us relief.
Spokane Valley Firefighters participate in (and have started) all kinds of charities. We help non-traditional students get an education, provide housing for children with cancer during treatments, help veterans overcome stress related to PTSD, provide kids with coats each winter, rescue special needs animals, teach at Spokane Valley Tech, provide community assistance through a benevolent association, coach in local schools, volunteer with special needs kids, teach bike safety, participate in scouting programs, serve in our military, and so much more.
The men and women of the Spokane Valley Fire Department often do more than just physically take care of our patients, we shovel snow from sidewalks and driveways, fix wheelchairs, fix bikes, provide blankets to the needy, rescue pets, fetch shoes, medicines, diapers, and much more.
Spokane Valley Firefighters treat every human and animal life with value and deserving of dignity. That takes courage. Integrity (Honor) is not what we do when people are watching us, it’s what we do when no one is watching us. The firefighters at Spokane Valley Fire genuinely care about serving every member of our community, on duty and off. That takes courage and good character.
Responding as firefighters within the same community we live in can eventually come at a cost. Throughout my time on the job, I’ve heard stories of firefighters, on-duty and off, arriving to help someone in need, only to find that it was a family member—sometimes they didn’t even know it until hours later. Courage is coming back for more.
After 25 years, I’ve seen it happen too many times. Whether in Albuquerque, Tucson, or in the Valley, it’s a part of the job that we cannot escape. In fact, in the year I’ve been at the Valley, it’s happened to our own personnel. Courage is coming back for more.
Personally, for me, it was in 2012. I was off duty at a softball park to watch my wife and daughter’s game. I got there late because I got off work early that morning. I remember hearing screams and I ran towards them. I found a little girl on the ground bleeding profusely from an open, compound fracture of her radius and ulna. I remember my wife suddenly showing up, yelling at me in complete panic. I can recall asking her to calm down because I couldn’t understand what she was saying. I realized then that it was her team. I remember asking where our daughter was—I don’t know why I asked, I just did. I remember, plainly, as she pointed at the little girl in my hands. Courage is coming back for more.
Biography: Chief Soto began his career in 1996 with the Albuquerque Fire Department in New Mexico. In 2018, Chief Soto retired and joined the Rural Metro Fire Department in Tucson, Arizona. He then joined the Spokane Valley Fire Department as a Deputy Chief in 2021 and became Fire Chief in February 2022. He believes strongly in being active and involved in our community, ensuring department diversity and safety, and working in collaboration with other agencies, elected officials, and stakeholders to ensure that we meet the needs of our citizens. Spokane Valley Fire has been a PACE Partner since 2016.
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