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Canyon Lake History: Pixie Vogt, Canyon Lake’s first fire captain

Pixie Vogt served as Canyon Lake’s first Fire Captain. She is pictured on the left in 1986 and on the right in 2010. Photos provided by Canyon Lake Community News and Pixie Vogt.

In late 1985, the County of Riverside Board of Supervisors voted to provide the necessary funds to man Canyon Lake’s volunteer fire station. The county took over Canyon Lake’s Fire Station 60 on May 15, 1986. By June 1986, it was staffed full-time. Pixie Vogt was the community’s first fire captain.

Vogt arrived in Canyon Lake on May 15, 1989, and had an average of two to three calls a day, responding to emergencies ranging from cut fingers and strokes to vegetation and vehicle fires, according to the June 1986 edition of the Canyon Lake Community News publication.

At the time Vogt was hired to serve as Canyon Lake’s fire captain, she had been a firefighter for 11 years and had several significant “firsts” in her life. She headed the line when the state first began accepting the applications of women who wanted to become firefighters and was the first woman fire captain in the state of California, a position she earned five years prior to serving as Canyon Lake’s fire captain.

In 1986, Vogt was quoted as saying she didn’t grow up wanting to be a “fireman.” As a youngster, her choices for a career fell along more traditional female lines. However, after graduating from high school in 1974, her firefighter brothers encouraged her to take the physical and try her luck at the new job opportunities being offered by the state’s Division of Forestry. The rest is history.

As one of the state’s first female firefighters, Vogt had varied assignments. She was with Ryan Air Attack in Hemet, dropping from helicopters in hard-to-reach fire areas, she was promoted to engineer and served at the Irvine Fire Station in Orange County for two years, and then transferred to San Bernardino to work on the brush trucks before being promoted to captain and supervising Glen Avon’s firefighting efforts for five years.

Vogt said she ran, lifted weights, and worked out every day to keep in shape for her demanding job. “I love my job,” Vogt said in 1986, “I’m an outdoors person and Canyon Lake is a beautiful environment. There’s an excitement in this job that I love. I never know from one minute to the next what is going to happen, and I know each day that I’m doing something beneficial for people who find themselves in emergency situations and need help.”

At the time, Vogt was on duty 24 hours a day from Sunday through Tuesday. Besides Vogt, there were only two other paid firefighters: Engineer Eric Kielhorn and Engineer Michelle Aleman. The rest of the staff consisted of volunteers. When Vogt was off duty, the station was in the hands of Kielhorn from Wednesday through Friday and Aleman on Saturdays.

“There is someone on duty every minute,” Vogt said in 1986. “And our staff of volunteers all have radios and respond to the scene of any emergencies to help us.”

In June 1986, members of the volunteer fire station included President Harry Pahel, Emelio Castro, Jaime Contreras, Gary Fallan, Tim Foppiano, brothers Steven Fox and Tony Fox, Tracy Hobday, Scott Shafer, and Mark Thoman.

At the June 30, 1986, Homeowners Club meeting, the community was invited to meet Vogt, members of her crew, and the volunteer staff during a presentation of the past, present, and future of the fire company.

The Canyon Lake Insider caught up with Vogt on February 18, 2022. Vogt is now 64 years old and resides in Hemet. Vogt said she started her firefighting career in 1975. “It was the first year when firefighters were allowed in the fire service,” she said.

Vogt shared that she left the Canyon Lake Fire Station when she became pregnant in June 1988. After the birth of her child, Vogt worked at the Command Center in the Dispatch office in Perris. After 33 years in the fire service, Vogt retired as a battalion chief in 2007.

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