The Desert IndependentTM

Serving Blythe and the Desert Regions of the Southwest Since 2001


200 Pounds of Irish

By Robert Jensen
The Desert Independent

April 28, 2012

Frank Kelly slipped away from us in the early morning hours on Friday following a lengthy illness at his home – “Pancho’s Villa”. He led a life well lived and defined by his passion for firefighting as well as his love for his wife, Anita. This article was written years ago when Frank first began organizing the Palo Verde CERT. We are republishing it now in tribute to this very remarkable man who gave so much to this community.

By Robert JENSEN
The Desert Independent

July 19, 2008

BLYTHE, Calif – “I have been to the Mountaintop and I have seen the Elephant!” screamed an exuberant Irishman named Frank Kelly to the local CERT class. “I have managed disasters without the Incident Command System and with the Incident Command System. I’m here to tell you that the Incident Command System works!” And so our introduction to this noteworthy teacher began.

Frank Kelly is a pretty unique individual to get to know. He is the local Incident Commander/Trainer for the Community Emergency Response Team, adjunct professor, consultant, raconteur, pilot and retired Division Chief from the Huntington Beach Fire Department He’s a wiry redhead, full of energy with a youthful mentality and sense of humor that belies his age.

Frank retired from the Huntington Beach Fire Department in 1984 and began a very active second life with his wife Anita, beginning other ventures as an outlet to their collective energies. Frank Kelly and Associates is well known as a consultant company nationwide as a developer if Incident Command Systems for corporations, private companies and government entities – detailing plans according to the needs of the clients.

Frank arises every morning at his 100-acre spread north of town that he named “Pancho’s Villa” and gets to take a gander at the gorgeous view, the landscaping he and Anita laboriously created (after removing 37 refrigerators found dumped on the site when he bought the place), the occasional bobcat, cougar, or coyote that meanders past the house and keeps an especially keen eye peeled for more of the 27 rattlesnakes the couple have “relocated” in the past three years. A couple of swims in the pool every day keeps Frank down to weight and shows how he maintains his ruddy tan as well. On the north side of “Pancbo’s Villa”, a humungous Koi pond fed with water from the Colorado reflects the mountains perfectly as seen from rockers placed just so on his front porch.

A couple of large sheds lay to the south, holding his backhoe and Anita’s fully operational Tanker truck – what else could the wife of a retired Fire Chief want? Perhaps a chance to operate the bright red City of Pomona Fire Department Golf Cart that sits alongside the house, complete with siren and flashers. All paid for by a lot of hard work and the sale of Frank and Anita’s house in Huntington Beach seven years ago. Just one house. That tells you a lot about comparative house values in the desert and on the coast.

Frank not only teaches the Fire Science Technology classes at PV College, he has also been very involved at the Ehrenberg Fire Department and is the man to call on whenever the congregation at Zion Lutheran Church need his skills and backhoe. CERT, however, seems to garnering a good deal of his energies these days. With help from a Homeland Security Grant, the City of Blythe, Butch Hull, the LDS church and Bob Holtz – an eclectic group of individuals has been brought together. About 25 people are signed up to help out with child searches, backup for First Responders, CPR, traffic control, weather watching and many other arenas in which community members can come together in a coherent fashion to assist in case of a disaster.

He has a vision for a regional fire, law enforcement, and EMS training center. Having tentative approval from Palo Verde College for the Center, Frank is talking to Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack’s Office regarding funding venues. Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire is interested also. The Training Center would serve a variety of southern California agencies. Some folks are attempting to have the same at northern California at the Moffett Field NASA site in the Bay Area. The center, if it becomes a reality would serve not only as a firefighting, law enforcement, and medical routine training center; but, would be equipped for Homeland Security training. The grounds would have a four story building, a replica two story motel, residential garage, basement for confined space rescue training, all of which would be capable of hot fire evolutions. A compound for law enforcement tactical training is envisioned as well.

According to Kelly, one of the difficulties facing response agencies is command and control training. In response to that need the center would have a dedicated building with a computer aided simulator for strategic and tactical training. Adjacent to the tower there would be a rubble pile and partially collapsed building for technical rescue and “working dog” training. Finally, a full scale hazardous materials manipulative skills unit featuring overturned tankers, chlorine cylinders and the like. This would do so much for this valley in terms of enhancing the safety of our responders, citizens and the economy. As a side note, Palo Verde College has one of the largest Fire Science Programs in the state. The majority of the classes are State Fire Marshal compliant.

Frank has also big plans for the CERT group. Already, the City of Blythe has chipped in for backpacks, vests, shirts, hats, and hardhats; and, Billy Kem of the City Fire Department had donated surplus radios for field communications as well. Lieutenant Gray of the BPD has trained the group in search procedures as well as how to properly direct traffic in a darkened intersection.

Frank is used to an “unlimited budget” as the City of Huntington Beach relied on its many oil wells for extra revenue. He jokingly said, “Anytime we needed more money, we just adjusted the flow upwards,” he stated. As such, he likes to think big. He has his sights set next on acquiring a command trailer that can be set up in the field as a communications center and warehouse for the variety of supplies that may be needed in different scenarios. He would also like to see many more people sign up to be trained in CERT. “It’s a great program; it involves only four hours a month in training that we keep as fun and valuable as possible.”

Frank would love to see 200 more citizens sign up. For anybody that would like to consider it, give Frank a call at 1-760-922-6130 or come to the booth with all the folks wearing the green CERT shirts in September at the Fall Street Fair.

You will be glad you did.

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