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John Sconce is firefighter of the year

Tigard American Legion honors TVF and R King City crew member with award
by: Barbara Sherman PROUD TO SERVE — Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue firefighter John Sconce’s dedication to his job and off-duty volunteer work for the Oregon Muscular Dystrophy Association helped him put him over the top for the annual award.

Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue's Station 35 in King City is on a roll: This year Tigard American Legion Post 158 named one of the station's firefighters, John Sconce, as its Firefighter of the Year.

And last year, the legion chose its captain, Troy Spisla, as the firefighter of the year, and he went on to become the Oregon Firefighter of the Year.

Sconce started his career as a volunteer firefighter, serving for seven years before becoming a professional firefighter in 2005.

"During his 12 years with TVF and R, John has consistently demonstrated a work ethic and sense of stewardship that is admired by his colleagues and experienced by the citizens we serve," said Chief Mike Duyck at the awards ceremony.

One of Sconce's biggest passions is volunteering for the Oregon Muscular Dystrophy Association, and he has been coordinating TVF and R's annual "Fill the Boot" fund-raising campaign that annually raises thousands of dollars to help find a cure for the disease as well as fund medical treatment and pay for equipment and summer camps.

"John's organizational abilities are reflected in the logistics needed to make such a large event successful," Duyck said. "In order to have firefighters positioned in several cities collecting coins from commuters, John has to secure several permits and coordinate with multiple agencies, including law enforcement and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

"He also has to develop safety and action plans."

Sconce said he was totally surprised when he heard that Spisla and Duyck had nominated him for the award.

"I didn't know about it," he said. "I didn't believe it at first."

However, the news isn't so surprising after learning that Sconce has spent most of his adult life helping people.

Sconce, who grew up in Beaverton and Lake Oswego, served as a combat medic in the Army for four years, spending most of his time in Texas. He planned to get more training and follow that line of work in civilian life until he talked to a firefighter and learned how much they do for the communities they serve.

He started his volunteer firefighting for Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue in Wilsonville.

"I wore a pager and when it went off, I'd go to the station and ride along," he said. "I rode with a Wilsonville crew every Monday night for three years. Volunteers follow the same rank structure as the professional firefighters, and I became a captain."

To become a professional firefighter with TVF and R, Sconce attended a three-month academy and then was assigned a trainer and put on probation for a year. He was first assigned to stations in Beaverton and Aloha before coming to the King City station about three years ago, which suited him just fine as he lives four minutes away.

"Troy called me and said they had a vacancy," Sconce said. "I had worked a couple of shifts with his crew, so they knew me a little. Compatibility is important with crews."

Sconce, 34, isn't letting any grass grow under his feet - he is taking prerequisite classes now so he can apply to go to paramedic school at Oregon Health and Science University, which runs the program for TVF and R.

"It's a one-year program, and then you have a one-year probation," he said. "We do a lot of medical calls - 82 percent of our calls are medical."

Sconce said he started as a volunteer for the Oregon Muscular Dystrophy Association to collect funds and then was asked if he would coordinate TVF and R's "Fill the Boot" campaign.

"Now I've done it for four years," he said. "We have firefighters at three different locations and raise $50,000 annually."

Duyck explained at the awards ceremony, "John Sconce consistently demonstrates compassion, dedication and work ethic… Throughout his volunteer and professional career, John Sconce has proven to be a valuable asset to TVF and R and an excellent public servant.

"As fire chief, I am proud and honored that the Tigard American Legion chose John as their Firefighter of the Year."

Spisla said later that he and Duyck talked to the captains at the Burnham and Walnut street fire stations and came up with Sconce's name.

"He does so much off-duty with the MDA," Spisla said. "And his work ethic is so great. That's why I asked to transfer him here - he does way beyond what his position requires."