As the blaring wail of the sirens clearing the way for the engine pierce the ears of bystanders, SHS graduate Griffin McAbery hones in on radio traffic to prepare himself.
When the engine company arrives on scene, McAbery proves himself useful among his paid colleagues, jumping in to operate Hurst extrication equipment, pull a pre-connect, treat a patient, or operate a set of irons.
Soon thereafter, McAbery and his crew arrive back at the station. While his career counterparts settle in for their 24-hour shift, McAbery prepares for his dual-degree program at Central Oregon Community College. McAbery is a student firefighter at Redmond Fire and Rescue.
“I work there full time, except for classes, which allow me to gain the experience and reputation that I’ll need to prepare myself for the future of my career,” he said. The fire service is a competitive field that requires real-world experience and classroom knowledge to even be considered for a job. For McAbery, firefighting has always been the career goal.
“I’ve always wanted to be a firefighter. My dad was a great inspiration to me, always making it sound like the career for me,” he said. McAbery’s father is a battalion chief at Hoodland Fire District and firefighter at Gresham Fire Department, and is involved in education programs at each department.
“Hoodland Fire Explorers and Gresham Fire Cadets both did an excellent job at preparing me for the industry. [They introduced] me to other like-minded students, professional firefighters, and new friends that I still hold closely. They taught me valuable skills that I still use at work to this day,” McAbery said. These programs strive to introduce youth to the fire service with practical skills and firsthand experience.
McAbery graduated from Sandy High School in 2021. Though he enjoyed the experience, he wished there were more career-specific classes for firefighters. “I had a great time attending Sandy High School though sadly there aren’t very many classes available for people wanting to go into the fire department industry. Sure there’s medical terminology and whatnot but that’s for EMTs and paramedics and not firemen,” he said.
To prospective firefighters, McAbery offers this advice: “I would certainly say do some research; look for an explorer or cadet program. They have them at Hoodland, Sandy, and Gresham, so you have plenty of options. Always present with your best foot forward, and once you get the chance become a student somewhere, there are a lot of people looking to get this job, so you just need the one thing that makes you stand out from the rest. And make sure to get your medical stuff done first,” he said.
McAbery’s time at Redmond will prepare for his goal of being a firefighter/paramedic at Gresham Fire. He will finish the program with an AAS degree in Structural Fire Science and an AAS degree in Emergency Medical Services. So perhaps in a few years’ time, McAbery will arrive on scene as a paid career firefighter, without a probationary period, without a student status, and as an educated and fully-fledged firefighter.