PENN VALLEY, CA—Everything has come full circle.

In 2019, while attending the Butte College Fire Academy, 23 year-old Ben Ketron heard a presentation by Penn Valley Fire Protection District (PVFPD) Firefighter/Paramedic Bryan Mathena. In his presentation, Mathena touted unique opportunities available to Penn Valley firefighters, including financial scholarships for costly paramedic training. Based on this presentation, Ketron chose to intern with Penn Valley Fire.

On May 19, 2022 PVFPD Firefighter/Paramedic Ketron will join Mathena in making the same presentation to the current students of Butte College Fire Academy. The story Ketron will share includes his experience as first an intern, then part time firefighter, followed by being awarded full scholarship to NCTI, a private Emergency Medical Services school in Roseville. He then become a fulltime firefighter and earned Paramedic licensure, with the full support of PVFPD’s Paramedic Scholarship Program.

Penn Valley Firefighter/Paramedic Ketron
Penn Valley Firefighter/Paramedic Ben Ketron

The Paramedic Scholarship Program began in 2018 as an initiative of PVFPD Board Chair Bruce Stephenson, a retired Roseville Fire Captain.  The community has contributed $30,380, $20,000 of which was donated through the Penn Valley Fire Department Auxiliary, a non-profit dedicated to supporting Penn Valley Fire. To date, PVFPD has sponsored paramedic training to two firefighters. In exchange for full scholarship, recipients commit to remaining with the agency for five years.

Ketron chose to intern with PVFPD because of the advanced life support provided by paramedics. PVFPD is unique in that it staffs a fire-based ambulance with highly skilled paramedics.

Fire intern programs allow fire academy graduates the opportunity to put their new skills into action in the field. Interns work 48 hours on, 96 hours off and are paid $30 per 24-hour period, a stipend intended to cover travel expenses. PVFPD covers intern uniforms and personal protective equipment and their shift mates cover their meals.

In the past, graduates of a fire academy had to volunteer as a fire intern for 26 weeks to earn their CA State Fire Marshal Firefighter 1 (OSFN FF1) certification. That requirement has changed and current graduates are now opting to accept immediate employment, dramatically reducing the intern pool smaller agencies like PVFPD rely upon to supplement staffing. While many small fire agencies are experiencing challenges in enticing applicants, the PVFPD Paramedic Scholarship Fund is helping to attract and retain high quality Firefighter/Paramedics, like Ben Ketron.

Ketron credits the advanced life support program and Penn Valley staff with his decision to apply to PVFPD. “Penn Valley Fire provided me the opportunity to work alongside paramedics, which is why I chose to interview in the first place. The Paramedic Scholarship Fund has been instrumental in allowing me to pursue my dream of becoming a paramedic. Learning from and working alongside such highly respected EMS mentors like Captain Thomas and Lt. Justus has been a huge part of my successful medic training.” Ketron completed his 14-month medic school in March of this year and became a fulltime, independent Firefighter/Paramedic with PVFPD on April 5, 2022.

“From the Chief to the newest hire, every staff member does much more than required. We all go out of our way to help the community, however we are able.” Ketron believes Penn Valley residents are lucky to have such committed staff at their hometown fire department and, likewise, that staff is lucky to have such a committed, involved community that supports programs like the Paramedic Scholarship Fund. He appreciates that his job allows him to meet and interact with all ages and especially enjoys seeing kids “light up” when they see a fire engine. “Being able to see through their eyes rekindles my earliest desire to join this profession.”

If you would like information on supporting the PVFPD Paramedic Scholarship Fund please contact Chief Don Wagner at or

(530) 432-2630