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Firefighter Shares Camaraderie

By Ty Walker

Firefighter Shares Camaraderie

There’s a place Brian Henrichs used to go hang out as a young teenager. It was only a short bike ride from his house in West Linn to the fire station.

His big brother was a firefighter there. He would take him on ride-alongs and let him help wash the fire engine, keeping it shiny and red. Brian looked up to his big brother, who was six years older and on his way to a long career fighting fires.

Brian saw the way firefighters worked together like a fine-tuned machine to maintain the station and all the equipment. He appreciated his brother for giving him the inside view of the lifestyle of a firefighter. He liked what he saw hanging out at the fire station.

“There’s a brotherhood,” he said. “The camaraderie is second to none.”
It’s only natural that he followed in his brother’s footsteps and became a firefighter as well. These days, Henrichs is a Hoodland Fire District division chief currently fighting the Camp Creek Wildland Fire in the Mount Hood National Forest.

His career began as a volunteer at the West Linn Fire Department. He worked there for six years, then joined Hood River Fire for a year before getting a job as a paramedic for a private ambulance company.
After 20 years with American Medical Response, he joined the small Hoodland Fire District as a volunteer in 2012. In 2018, he became a full-time staff member in Welches. In 2020 he was promoted to division chief of operations and training.

Henrichs is 48 and lives in Brightwood with his wife Lacy and son Colton.

“I love the mountain community,” Henrichs said. “ I love Hoodland Fire District. It’s a great place to work. We have a lot of good people here. I appreciate all the community support.”

Staffing is a challenge and Hoodland Fire District depends heavily on volunteers.

“We only have two career people on the engine so unless we have a student or volunteer on the engine we’re manpower challenged,” Henrichs said. “Staffing is always an issue and it’s nationwide.”

The Hoodland Fire District has 22 volunteers and 10 full time staff. It has three stations – Brightwood, Government Camp and Welches – and covers the area from Timberline Lodge to halfway to Sandy.
“The climate has changed,” Henrichs said. “More homes are short-term rentals than permanent residents. That makes it challenging. Most young people aren’t going to volunteer because they don’t live here.”
The great majority of calls he gets are for medical emergencies. Heinrichs wrote a grant that helped the district obtain three automatic CPR devices, one for each station.

He said nowadays firefighting is the least scary part of his job.
“The scariest part is the situations that we encounter, with all the synthetic narcotics that are out there. The violence, the political climate. This is the stuff that scares me because you never know when someone’s going to snap and you could be their target.”

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