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Oregon firefighter reflects on 41 years of service

When Randy Travis was in college, there was a grass fire near his father’s house.

He went and helped extinguish it. Afterwards, Oregon’s Fire Chief at the time asked him if he would want to do it again. He went to the firehouse the next day and joined the department. He retired this past October after 41 years of service.

“I’ll miss helping people,” Travis, 63, said. “I believe everyone needs to do something for their community. For me, that was firefighting.”

Travis said the camaraderie with firefighters on the volunteer department and other local squads is among the things he’ll miss most. While doing mutual aid in other towns, the other departments always expected to see him, because he was always there.

Former Oregon Fire Captain Randy Travis directs firefighters as he watches a practice burn.

Former Oregon Fire Captain Randy Travis directs firefighters as he watches a practice burn. (Earleen Hinton Shaw Media/)

The decision to retire came after Travis found he couldn’t do things he did 20 years ago. He loved the job, but didn’t want to risk getting hurt, despite his landscaping job keeping him in good shape.

“I never thought I’d do it for 41 years,” Travis said. “But, on the flip side, I never thought I’d ever quit. I never saw an end to it. I just got used to loving it. My family was shocked I retired. They thought I’d do it forever too. My fiance said she did worry about me. My parents are relieved, too.”

Travis saw four different chiefs during his time at Oregon Fire. He also saw a lot of new trucks, personnel and training. He saw Oregon grow from a smaller department that just did firefighting to one that’s taken on more community responsibility.

Current Oregon Fire Chief Michael Knoup said Travis was an officer at different levels that brought experience leadership to the station.

“Over those many years you’ve seen a lot and a lot of change,” Knoup said, “He went from a department that just did firefighting and now it’s almost full-time with volunteer staff that does EMS. That was a game changer. It went from 300 to over 1,000 calls a year. He’s witnessed a lot of change.”

Being the longest-tenured on the department, Travis said he tended to know where tools were and where people lived. He recalls responding to calls at the same house three times in 10 years.

The two biggest fires Travis recalls were at the Mt. Morris Elementary School and at the Sterling steel mill.

Oregon firefighters Tony Breeden, Aaron More, and Randy Travis (far right) return the rescue boat to the dock at Castle Rock State Park after responding to a report of an overturned canoe. The canoeists reached land safely at Brooks Isle after waves, caused by strong winds, apparently caused the boat to capsize.

Oregon firefighters Tony Breeden, Aaron More, and Randy Travis (far right) return the rescue boat to the dock at Castle Rock State Park after responding to a report of an overturned canoe. The canoeists reached land safely at Brooks Isle after waves, caused by strong winds, apparently caused the boat to capsize. (Earleen Hinton Shaw Media/)

His most memorable call was at the Chana Sale Barn about 25 years ago.

“A three-year-old had his finger caught in the hole in the back of a pickup truck,” Travis said. “It took us an hour. Every time we’d try to get it out, he’d cry. We distracted him and pulled it out, and we went from crying to laughing.”

Travis looks back fondly on how the department educated the public during his time there. He went to schools and talked to students. He believes that went a long way after seeing a decrease in fires over the year.

When asked what he’ll miss most, Travis simply said helping people.

“When someone calls us, it’s the worst day of their life,” Travis said. “We’re there to make it better. I like to think we did a lot of that over the years.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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