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`Fireman Bob' Sjolund takes Redmond job

by: Photo By Susan Matheny - JCFD fire captain Bob Sjolund will be a battalion chief in Redmond.


   Fire captain Bob Sjolund, known affectionately by thousands of Jefferson County students as "Fireman Bob," will be leaving at the end of January to accept a position in Redmond.
   The Jefferson County Fire District is inviting the community to Fireman Bob Day to help celebrate Sjolund's years with the district and wish him good luck as he advances his career in his new job.
   The open house is from 1 to 3 p.m., Friday, Jan. 25, with a special presentation at 1:30 p.m. Cake and coffee will be served.
   In 1984 at age 16, Sjolund, the son of Jeanette and Larry Nasset of Madras, started volunteering with Jefferson County Rural Fire Protection District as a junior firefighter. Since he was under age 18, he couldn't go into burning buildings, but said he got a pager, firemen's turnouts, and attended Monday night training drills.
   "I was excited about it and got hooked on it," Sjolund said, adding, "It was an opportunity to help out with the community, plus there was the excitement of the fire trucks and the nostalgia of that image."
   In 1986, he enrolled in the fire science program at Chemeketa Community College, and lived at the Marion County Fire Station as a resident volunteer.
   "I completed an associate's degree and while I was gone, they built this new station," he said of the spacious brick fire station in Madras.
   After graduation in 1988, he married Shannon Shull of Bend. They lived in Redmond, while he commuted to work at Bright Wood Corp. in Madras. The following year, they moved to Madras, where Sjolund again began volunteering at the Madras station.
   His first full-time fire service job came in 1990 when he was hired by Warm Springs Fire and Safety, where he worked for five years.
   "I really enjoyed that. It was wonderful working with the tribes and I enjoyed the community. They treated me great and helped educate me," he said.
   That was also where his Fireman Bob persona began. "I was showing Warm Springs Elementary kids `stop, drop and roll' (fire safety) and I introduced myself as Fireman Bob and the name stuck," he recalled.
   Meanwhile, he also continued to volunteer in Madras as a firefighter and training officer.
   In 1995, Sjolund was hired by JCFD to be the district's first full-time training officer and public education officer.
   Continuing his Fireman Bob theme, he visited schools, winning students' attention with his enthusiasm and friendly personality, while educating thousands of kids about fire safety.
   At the fire station, he has taught emergency medical, and fire fighting skills for the past 12 years, and also taught for Central Oregon Community College's fire science program for the past six years.
   New job
   In his new position as battalion chief for the Redmond Fire Department, Sjolund will supervise training for 40 paid firefighters, some 30 volunteers, and seven student interns.
   The Redmond department operates four fire stations, a 24-hour ambulance service, and responds to airport rescue and hazmat situations.
   Because he's a manager, he is not required to live within responding distance of the station, and will continue to live in Madras and commute.
   "It was an opportunity for me to advance in my career, that I'd probably not get here right away. And it was a job description I almost felt like I wrote myself," Sjolund said of his new job.
   Sjolund noted his daughter Brianne, 16, wants to finish high school here, and his wife Shannon's career is here. Their younger daughters are Taylor, 10, and Hannah, 7.
   Of his fire career in Jefferson County, Sjolund said, "I couldn't have done this without the support of my family." He also wanted to thank former chief Earl Cordes, the volunteers, and "all the kids who remember Fireman Bob and who helped me spread the word of fire safety."