Fire Fighter Veteran Comes Out of Retirement
By Ty Walker
Pat McAbery has spent nearly his whole life making runs with emergency medical services. When he was seven, in the early 1970s, he tagged along for the ride on calls with his sister and mother, who helped organize the first EMS on The Mountain.
At 16, he joined the Explorer youth program at Hoodland Fire District. At 18 he became a volunteer with the district. He went on to get a real paying job working for a local ambulance company.
Then in 1992, he was hired as a full-time firefighter at the Gresham Fire Department. McAbery served in Gresham for more than 30 years before retiring in December.
A few months ago at age 57, he came out of retirement and rejoined Hoodland, this time around as a full-time staff paramedic and firefighter. That’s the short version of his firefighting life story, as McAbery tells it.
He said he was enjoying retirement for all of six months just fine, until he got the opportunity to give back to the Hoodland community and work close to his lifelong home in Rhododendron. The extra income would help pay the high cost of his medical insurance, as well.
“I never would have gotten my career firefighting job without having been a volunteer up here,” McAbery said. “It’s nice now that I can give back to the community at a different level than I did before, with a lot of experience from the big city.”
Working firefighter shifts of 48 hours on followed by 96 hours off also gives him time for other interests. He runs a video production business on the side called Sights And Sound Services, which makes educational documentaries.
He’s currently working on a feature-length video about first response services for mental health calls. McAbery writes, shoots and edits the video for production.
He also makes time to go camping around Mount Hood with his family and ride dirt bikes with his son, a firefighter with Warm Springs Fire And Safety.
McAbery said he likes the variety of calls he gets on the job, most of which are medical emergencies. It’s a different job every day.
During his career in Gresham, he served on crews deployed to help fight major wildland fires in California and Oregon. They saw action protecting structures in the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge.