Dedication burns within fire district volunteers
Will Heredia found inspiration to pursue a career in firefighting at a young age.
"(Growing up,) my neighbor was a firefighter. Going to the station with them was always fun," he said. "To me, the biggest draw is the camaraderie, and how much of a big team it is."
Heredia is one of 35 volunteers at the Estacada Rural Fire District. Volunteers fill a variety of functions in the district, such as firefighters, water tender operators, EMS responders, Fire Corps support and administrative positions. The district's George Fire Station is staffed completely by volunteers.
"It's one of the few areas you can volunteer where it makes a direct impact on people's life," said Richard Anderson, division chief for the Estacada Rural Fire District. "Knowing there is an opportunity and that we need people is the biggest thing."
Heredia has been a volunteer firefighter in Estacada for just under one year. He is studying fire science at Portland Community College.
He has found being a volunteer firefighter to be a valuable learning opportunity.
"You learn a lot from everyone," he said. "Everytime I'm here, there's always something new to take home."
One memory that particularly stands out to Heredia is when volunteers from Estacada and Clackamas participated in a "burn to learn" experience at an Oregon City home that was being torn down.
"We got to practice on a live fire. It was an awesome experience," he said. "Every single moment was a teaching experience."
For Emily Poe, a fire protection technology student at Portland Community College who began volunteering with the Estacada Rural Fire District in February, the learning experiences stand out as well.
"Volunteer firefighting is a really great way to learn who you are as a person. The things you learn about yourself, there's no opportunity in day to day life for that," she said. "(In some situations as a firefighter) you can't always rely on your usual senses. It brings out parts of you you might not have realized were there. It's a great way to work through fears you might have and get stronger."
Both Poe and Heredia appreciate the wisdom of their fellow firefighters in Estacada.
"There are a lot of really great resources here. Every generation is here," Poe said. "There's a lot of wisdom. Everyone here brings different skills."
Along with the many learning opportunities, Heredia also appreciates the Estacada community.
"It feels good to come out and help people," he said. "I'm from Sherwood, but being out here makes me feel like I'm part of the Estacada community. It's my second home."
Poe expressed similar thoughts.
"Firefighters here seem to know their patients personally," she said. "It's such a close and tight-knit community. It's not just patient care. It's people care. That's really inspiring to me."
She added that volunteering with the fire department is valuable event for those who aren't certain they wish to pursue a career in the fire service.
"There are a large variety of different skills you can get your hands on," she said. "It's character building. There's so much responsibility. It's building a better adult."
Estacada's volunteer firefighters receive the same training as their career counterparts, which consists of 200 hours. The application process typically begins with a ride along, an interview, a background and reference check, a written test if the applicant has not received a college degree and a physical agility test for some positions.
Additional information about volunteering with the Estacada Rural Fire District, along with volunteer applications, are available at www.estacadafire.org.