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Volunteer Fought Fires 38 Years

By Ty Walker

Volunteer Fought Fires 38 Years

Jim Jarvis used to get paid to travel all over the world and burn things down. He worked for a company that manufactured fire retardant and foam that firefighters drop from airplanes onto major fires.

As a technical service and sales representative, it was Jarvis’ job to demonstrate and train clients how to use the product. For the past 38 years, he also has volunteered with the Hoodland Fire District to fight fires on the mountain. Although he retired two years ago from his paying career, he still is involved in the firefighting business as a volunteer at the Welches fire station.

“I love helping people,” he said. “It’s the only job that you can get that little kids come up and give you hugs.”
At 70, Jarvis is still going strong fighting fires in the Mount Hood area. When on duty, he usually drives the water tender and other rigs to the scene of a fire or medical emergency.

Not long after moving with his family to Welches because his wife took a teaching job at the elementary school, the Portland native became a volunteer firefighter in January 1986.

Hoodland firefighters were visiting the neighborhood one day to train at a learn to burn site. Jarvis caught the attention of firefighter Pat McAbery, who invited him to participate in the training exercise. Jarvis took the first step in what led to decades of service with the Hoodland Fire District.

“My career was going out doing house burns and training people all over the country,” Jarvis said. “Then I became a volunteer firefighter. It was the best of both worlds.”

Jarvis, whose son Evan is a paramedic firefighter on the Hoodland staff, said he loves being a volunteer firefighter. He enjoys the excitement.

“You’re always ready to go,” Jarvis said. “That’s what makes it fun though. You don’t know what you’re going to do. Is it a car wreck? Is it a house fire?”

Jarvis has seen people come and go at Hoodland Fire District. The lack of volunteers is the biggest change he has seen over the years.

“I love what I do,” he said. “I love the people. I’ve gone through many different fire chiefs. Everybody who comes into this business has to love people and firefighting. Otherwise they don’t last long.”

“We used to have a lot of volunteers but over time, with all the regulations and time commitments, people just don’t volunteer like they used to. When I was first starting, we were 20 or 30 people all the time. The volunteers have dropped way off. But that’s happening everywhere in the county.”

Before he retired, Jarvis spent much of his time on business trips out of the country. He spends most of his time at home these days, but still manages to take vacations in Europe about twice a year.

“I’m old now but still having a good time,” Jarvis said. “That’s why I drive the water tender because I’m too old to climb up and down ladders and go in front doors of burning houses, but I can still drive the rig safely to the scene.”

For more information about volunteering at the Hoodland Fire District, phone 503-622-3256 or go online hoodlandfire.us/volunteer-firefighter.

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