Assistant chief named Corbett 'Volunteer Firefighter of the Year'
The Oregon Volunteer Firefighters Association selected Rick Wunsch, an assistant fire chief for the Corbett Fire District, as Oregon's Volunteer Firefighter of the Year at its annual banquet in North Bend, Coos County, on June 29.
"I'm humbled by it," Wunsch said. "There are great people at our fire department, and it's very humbling to receive an award like that."
Troy Snelling, president of the Corbett Fire District Association, nominated Wunsch for the award.
"Energetic, levelheaded, innovative, dedicated, reliable and committed are all terms that could be used to describe Rick Wunsch," Snelling said in the nomination letter.
Wunsch joined the Corbett Fire District in 2007, and now he oversees the training program for the department. Leading the department's instructional activities is a result of his own interest in pursuing more firefighting education.
"You're just never going to know everything," he said. "There's always something new to learn, and no two calls are ever the same."
Wunsch enjoys seeing trainees become a cohesive firefighting group while he continues to learn more himself.
In 2017, Wunsch responded to 54 percent of the 534 calls the Corbett Fire District received. One of those calls included the Eagle Creek Fire, which was started by a then 15-year-old boy throwing fireworks into the Eagle Creek Canyon on Sept. 2, 2017. In May, the boy was sentenced to pay $36 million in restitution and serve 1,920 hours of community service.
The fire eventually consumed more than 48,000 acres in the Columbia River Gorge. The Eagle Creek Fire threatened areas of Corbett, and part of the community was put on an evacuation notice. The fire station itself was placed on an evacuation warning.
Wunsch said Corbett firefighters still worry that another large fire will break out in the Gorge because it's a popular recreation area that dries out during the summer season.
"The conditions are ripe, so it's always a concern for us," he said.
This is the second consecutive year that a Corbett Fire District firefighter has taken home the Firefighter of the Year award. Tessie Adams, a Corbett Fire District paramedic, was selected for the honor in 2017.
"I'm very proud of our organization and everybody participating, working hard," Wunsch said, "and we're getting recognized for it."
About Corbett Fire
The Corbett Fire District coverage area stretches from just east of the Sandy River to Multnomah Falls and from south of the Columbia River to Clackamas County, parts of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, several Oregon State Parks and Recreation Areas, U.S. Forest Service lands, Interstate 84 and unincorporated communities of Corbett, Springdale, Aims, Latourell, Bridal Veil and Coopey Falls.
District firefighters respond from three volunteer fire stations in Corbett, Springdale and Aims.
With the exception of Corbett Fire Chief Dave Flood, the department is entirely staffed by volunteers. All firefighters rent or homes in the Corbett area, a requirement to serve.