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Sandy Fire seeks individuals to assist community

Volunteers needed to augment local fire district duties

Recruitment for new volunteers at Sandy Fire District is open now through Nov. 6.

“If you are looking for a positive way to contribute to your community, this is it,” said Jason McKinnon, the district’s division chief of professional development.

Sandy Fire District, which protects 77 square miles surrounding Sandy and serves a population of 18,000, operates three fire stations, one in downtown Sandy, one near Roslyn Lake and one in Dover, with a staff of 10 paid personnel, three students and 55 volunteers. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: STEVE WOLF - During their first year, Sandy volunteer firefighters must spend time in the classroom as well as at training exercises.

According to a news release from Sandy Fire, the agency’s volunteers are essential to its success.

Blake Watt, a Gresham resident and student at Mt. Hood Community College, will graduate from Sandy Fire’s recruit academy at the end of this year.

“It’s amazing. I love every minute of it,” Watt said.

After growing up in a small town in Alaska watching his father and other community members volunteer for the local fire department, Watt knew he wanted to follow in their footsteps.

Watt said he read that a high percentage of Americans don’t feel a strong attachment to their jobs, and he knew he wanted to be one of the few who love what they do with their lives.

“It’s nice to surround yourself with people that feel that way,” he added in reference to his teammates at Sandy Fire. “It’s cool to be able to switch and do something where people have a passion about what they do.”

As a full-time student with a job, for Watt, the most challenging part of the last nine months has been the long hours spent studying and training, as is the case for many first-year recruits.

McKinnon said often the first year of volunteering can be the most time consuming and applicants should be prepared for the time commitment, as the recruit academy consists of just under 200 hours from January to July, including every Thursday evening and every other Saturday.CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: STEVE WOLF - Sandy Fire protects 18,000 people with the help of its 55 volunteers.

“Being able to commit the time the first year of training can be difficult,” McKinnon added. “The first year is the toughest and requires a lot of dedication and good time management.”

But Watt said it’s not all about spending long hours at the station: Volunteering has its upsides.

“I know for me, it’s just the camaraderie between me and the other guys there,” Watt noted, adding that the eight recruits in the 2015 class have been there for each other during the nearly year-long process. “It didn’t feel quite as hard as it would just doing it by yourself … and we’ve built lifelong friendships through it.”

If you’re interested in applying to become a volunteer firefighter, application packets are available at the Sandy Fire main station, 17460 Bruns Ave., during business hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, or online at sandyfire.org.

Training for new recruits begins in January 2016. Upon completion of training, volunteers will receive the rank of NFPA firefighter I.

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