Aims firefighter celebrates half-century of volunteering
When Corbett Fire District No. 14 annexed Aims, in the Southeast corner of Multnomah County, back in 1971, they never expected to discover a plucky 20-year-old who would go on to volunteer and protect his community for half a century.
Brent Younker, who lives in Aims, joined Corbett Fire the same year as the annexation, and has never looked back, becoming a mainstay out of the Aims Station.
"They were looking for volunteers — at first it was something to do," Younker said.
Originally there were a dozen people who signed up as volunteer firefighters from the Aims-area, including Younker's father, but he was the one to stick with it the longest.
"I enjoyed the work and kept with it," he said. "I liked the training and watching the department grow."
Younker has gone on to serve 50 years with Corbett Fire District 14 and has no plans on stopping anytime soon. The volunteer continues to go on calls, and currently serves as one of the assistant chiefs, a role he has held since the late 1970s.
The 70-year-old volunteer firefighter continues to go on calls 50 years later, and serves as assistant chief, a role he has held since the late 1970s.
"There isn't anyone else up here who can take care of the issues like downed power lines, house fires, medical emergencies, or whenever something goes wrong," Younker said.
From the beginning, training has always been a priority for Younker. In 1972 he was one of the first firefighters in the state to take an EMT medical class at Mt. Hood Community College — a course he would take a second time after losing his recertification in a bureaucratic "paperwork haze." In the 1980s he was one of the first volunteer firefighters to take a leadership course at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland.
He has been described by fellow firefighters as someone who leads with a calm demeanor and rational approach to solving problems. Younker has been elected Officer of the Year three times by the Corbett firefighters and was runner-up for Oregon Volunteer of the Year in 1999.
"His energy and work ethic sets an example for all of us to follow," said Fire Chief Dave Flood.
Younker has worked with nine different Fire Chiefs in his time with Corbett, and he is the longest serving current volunteer. To claim the record, he will have to serve another decade to top former Chief Bob Layton who served 59 years.
In his "day job," Younker oversees a family rental store business in the Gresham and Sandy area. Family is also important, as he spends time with his seven grandchildren.
Younker said a lot has changed in the five decades he has served, much for the better. The equipment and apparatus have improved, the stations have grown in size and manpower, and the training is much more thorough than when he was a young man signing on.
"When I joined, all you had to do was show up for 90 days and then be voted in by current members," Younker said.
Now new volunteers apply, go through rounds of interviews, learn all the skills needed, complete courses, have mentors to lean on, and are weaned on to going on calls.
And for Younker the passion for volunteer firefighting has never dimmed. He said the Corbett volunteers are always on call.
"If a call comes in and you can make it, you make it," he said.
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