Behind the scenes, North Las Vegas mechanic helps in fire battle

When a fire threatened Mike Jerums’ California hometown in 1985, he and a friend were determined to save their horses.

The fire had been burning for days, and smoke was creeping over the mountaintops and ever closer to the town of Ojai, the northwest Las Vegas resident recalled. Fleeing residents clogged the roads, and burning items fell onto cars, he said. Jerums and his friend walked the horses through traffic, and he remembers his shoelaces smoking and having to wrap a wet towel around his head.

“We had a good (likelihood) of being killed,” he said. “Nowadays, I would not have done that.”

Jerums, 48, was in high school then; he since has incorporated his interest in fighting fire and fixing vehicles into his role as a mechanic for North Las Vegas’ Public Works fleet operations department. He specializes in working on fire vehicles and ambulances. He’s one of two men certified to work on these vehicles for the city.

There is a mutual respect between firefighters and mechanics because they wouldn’t be able to do their jobs without each other’s support, Jerums said.

“You feel like you’re part of the system,” he said. “Even though you don’t fight the fires, you give them the tools to do so.”

Acting Fire Chief Ray Kessler said Jerums and Lewis are “hypercritical” to the department’s operations.

“We consider them a part of our team,” he said. “Without those guys, our fire trucks don’t roll and we can’t provide our services for the community.”

Kessler said the fleet services team also assists with designing the fire trucks and adding speciality equipment, such as brackets or toolboxes.

Jerums said there’s a misconception that all his department does is oil changes. When a fire truck or engine breaks down or is not working properly, Jerums and partner Steve Lewis fix it as quickly as possible. There are about five fire engine reserves and one fire truck — older vehicles that can be used as substitutes — to serve seven stations in the North Las Vegas district.

“Sometimes you’re down to where you have no more reserves and you’re going to have to get it fixed and get it back out; otherwise, that engine (pumper) goes out, that fire station has no engine and it basically shuts it down,” Jerums said.

Jerums and Lewis are responsible for 40 pieces of rescue- or fire-suppression-related fire equipment, including engines and ladder trucks, as well as 21 support vehicles. Jerums said the most common job he does is change emergency lights.

The fleet services department also works on police motorcycles and cars, street sweepers and armored vehicles and assists with investigating fatal crashes involving vehicles, he said.

Jerums got his start in the automotive business at Ventura College in California in 1986, through an internship program that placed students at car dealerships. He worked at General Motors and other dealerships in California and Las Vegas, where he moved 10 years later.

Jerums’ wife, Daisy, encouraged him to apply for a job as a mechanic in North Las Vegas after seeing an advertisement in the newspaper.

He began working for the department in 2006 and started working on his fire and ambulance certifications the following year. Because Nevada didn’t offer classes at the time, he had to travel to Arizona for testing. It took him about four years to become certified with a Automotive Service of Excellence (ASE) dual master in automotive and medium/heavy duty trucks and Emergency Vehicle Technician with a dual master in fire apparatus and ambulance (and paramedic rescue). He is one of two mechanics in the state to have this certification, supervisor Pete Fitterling said.

In 2010, amid the recession, Jerums was laid off. He worked in Carson City until 2015, when he was offered a job in North Las Vegas.

Fitterling was hired at the same time.

“He’s a tremendous asset to the city,” Fitterling said. “He’s very dedicated and focused on his work.”

Jerums said a sense of civic duty fuels his passion for his work.

“People’s lives are dependent on what we do,” he said. “You have to make a conscious effort. We treat every vehicle that comes out of here like it was our own.”

Contact Kailyn Brown at or 702-387-5233. Follow @kailynhype on Twitter.

Underground home was built as Cold War-era hideaway
The underground house at 3970 Spencer Street is one of the valley’s most unusual homes built 26 feet underground in 1978 by Girard “Jerry” B. Henderson, who, planned to survive the end of the world there.
Lip Smacking Foodie Tours takes you where the locals go
Donald Contursi talks about Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, which offers walking tours of restaurants on and off Las Vegas Boulevard with food samples and tidbits of history about the places they visit.
Bump stock manufacturers under fire
The Justice Department said last month that it had started the process to amend federal firearms regulations to clarify that federal law defines bump stocks as machine guns.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Longtime Las Vegas attorney John Momot dies at age 74
Criminal defense attorney John Momot, who represented mob figures and even played himself in the movie “Casino,” has died.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
5 things connecting Las Vegas and Marilyn Monroe
1. Marilyn Monroe, known then as Norma Jeane, obtained her first divorce in Las Vegas at the age of 20 on September 13, 1946. 2. According to some biographers, Monroe lived at 604 S. 3rd Street for four months during the summer of 1946. The house has since been torn down and is now the site of a parking lot. 3. In 1954, Monroe almost married Joe DiMaggio in Las Vegas but the wedding was called off last minute. The wedding was to be held at the Hotel El Rancho Vegas which was located on the southwest corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. 4. Las Vegas has at least one road dedicated to the star. Marilyn Monroe Avenue is located in east Las Vegas and intersects with Betty Davis Street and Cary Grant Court. 5. There are currently more than 20 Marilyn Monroe impersonators for hire in the Las Vegas Valley.
Sir Richard Branson announces purchase of Hard Rock Hotel
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, has acquired the Hard Rock Hotel with partners and plans to turn it into a Virgin-branded property by the end of 2019.
3 Centennial High School students killed in Calif. crash (Full)
Three Centennial High School students were killed Thursday morning in Southern California when their vehicle was struck by a suspected drunken driver while they were enjoying their spring break, according to a family member of one of the victims.
Retail Restroom Sexual Assault Suspect
Las Vegas police are asking for help finding a man they said groped a woman in a south Las Vegas Valley restroom. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Calvary Christian Learning Academy, “There was no fair warning.”
Samantha O’Brien, whose three-year-old daughter attended the Calvary Christian Learning Academy daycare, found out Monday night when her daughter’s teacher called about the school closing.
Mojave Max at Springs Preserve
File footage of Mojave Max at Springs Preserve. (Springs Preserve)
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like