Monte Rio, CA, Fire Chief Breaks Back in Fall at Station

June 21, 2024
"It was just one of those stupid things," Monte Rio Chief Steve Baxman said, explaining he slipped getting off a truck.

Jun. 20—Monte Rio Fire Chief Steve Baxman, often the first face seen in times of emergency in west county, is awaiting surgery at UC Davis after he fractured his spine this week.

Baxman said he was at the Monte Rio Fire Station when he misstepped off his 2 1/2-ton Army truck Wednesday.

"It was just one of those stupid things," Baxman said from his hospital bed Thursday afternoon.

Crew members at the fire station took Baxman to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital before he was transferred to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento. Baxman said he's scheduled for surgery Friday morning.

"I have a T9 fracture in my spine and they're going to fuse it together," Baxman said. "I'll be back home Saturday or Sunday."

He thanked the Russian River community for its support and concern.

"Ah I'll be all right," Baxman said.

Russian River community members interested in helping Baxman can contact Guerneville's Jenn Otten in the Russian River Resources and Information Facebook Group, where a Meal Train sign up will be available.

Baxman has called the Russian River corridor home for nearly 50 years. In the area, he's considered an institution, not just a de facto ambassador of west county or unofficial mayor of Monte Rio, but a "Batman" of sorts for the area, with his unmatched ability to arrive first to a call for help.

"Baxman is larger than life in the lower Russian River," Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins told The Press Democrat on Thursday. "It seems like he's the first on scene and the last to leave for any local disaster or incident. His volunteerism and commitment to community are unparalleled."

Always interested in firefighting, Baxman started out volunteering in Roseland, Monte Rio and Freestone in the early '70s. By 1979 he was promoted to assistant fire chief in Monte Rio and by 1986 he was named chief after Emil Alberigi retired.

As Hopkins said, Baxman has been involved in nearly every natural disaster to strike the lower Russian River: the 1977 fire in downtown Guerneville, the 12,000-acre Creighton Ridge fire of 1978, the devastating Valentine's Day flood of 1986, the run of arson fires in 2015, the late February floods of 2019 and the destructive Walbridge Fire of 2020.

"He has always been there for west county," Hopkins said.


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