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  • 18 Dec 2014

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Fire districts seek volunteer help

Local fire districts are hurting for volunteers and are looking to the public to help out.

Woodburn, Hubbard, Aurora and Monitor fire districts are run with a significant number of volunteers — in fact, Hubbard and Monitor are entirely volunteer-run.

In more recent years, the requirements for volunteers have also increase exponentially.

“The training requirements have increased,” Aurora Fire Chief Rod Yoder said. “It used to be, just grab your jacket and helmet and go.”

Now firefighters go through two to four months of training to get a certification that they need to renew annually.

Another reason volunteers are harder to find is because many people in the area commute to jobs in Portland and Salem.

“We used to rely on farmers, but now we’re more of a bedroom community,” Hubbard Fire Assistant Chief Steve McDermott said.

“Employers aren’t as willing to let people go out to a fire,” added Woodburn Fire Executive Officers Annie Kirsch.

Woodburn has 18 paid individuals, but it has twice as many volunteers. All 24 of Hubbard’s firefighters are volunteers as are Monitor’s 28. Aurora’s 42-person firefighting team is all volunteer except for four careers.

“Fifty-plus volunteers would be ideal in Woodburn,” Woodburn Fire Chief Paul Iverson said. “We need people who are available during the day, because that’s when we’re really lean.”

However, he did point out that fire districts help their neighbors. With a common problem, the four fire districts put their heads together and hope to recruit enough volunteers for their next training session, which starts in August.

Iverson stresses the positive impact of being a volunteer firefighter.

“There’s a social aspect, camaraderie, with individuals that is unique,” he said. “It’s also rewarding to feel you’re helping people in the community.”

“It’s bigger than you,” McDermott added. “I look at this as ‘It’s not about me.’”

Additionally, Kirsch pointed out that it looks good on a resume.

“Employers look at that,” she said. “It says a lot about a person.”

Volunteers aren’t just those on the front lines, either. The fire district can always use support staff, whether it’s someone to take photos or someone to answer calls.

“We have people who say they’d love to help but they’re not firefighter (material),” McDermott said. “Everyone has something to offer. If you’re not sure, spend the summer coming and hanging out at the station, learning what we’re about.”

Monitor Fire Chief Mike Erwert added that there is a physical test for the line firefighters.

“You have to meet the physical requirements and pass background checks,” he said. “Even if you don’t pass the physical check, we could use you as a medic. They’re just as entrenched in the district’s duties.”

Yoder said it used to be much more restrictive in that a resident had to volunteer for the district that covers them.

“But now we’re looking out of the district a bit,” he said, noting they’re also looking to recruit in Wilsonville, particularly the Charbonneau area, for volunteers.

Even if you’re not able to volunteer for the fire district, McDermott pointed out that he hopes residents appreciate the work that goes into the organization.

“It might seem like firefighters take a while, but they’re coming away from dinner and their kids’ sports games,” he said. “Those serving the community are your neighbors.”

“Whether they’re volunteer or career, it’s all the same service,” Iverson said. “You can’t tell the difference because it’s always someone who’s there to help.”

The August training will be done at the Chemeketa Community College Brooks campus.

For more information, contact your nearest fire station.

Want to volunteer?

Contact your nearest fire district for more info:

  • Woodburn Fire District: 503-982-2360 or woodburnfire.com
  • Hubbard Fire District: 503-981-9454 or hubbardfire.com
  • Aurora Fire District: 503-678-5966 or aurorafire.org
  • Monitor Fire District: 503-634-2570 or monitorfire.com