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UCFD #1 Hot Seat: Dennis Bessarab

A firefighter in full gear with an axe, in front of a fire truck.

It’s time for the twenty-third edition of the UCFD #1 Hot Seat. The Hot Seat provides a brief snapshot, sharing the story of a highly committed and dedicated staff member. It is with great pleasure that UCFD #1 introduces you to Dennis Bessarab. Bessarab grew up in Clackamas, OR, and graduated from Centennial High School in 2022. While in high school, Dennis always thought about being a doctor and working in the medical field. It wasn’t until he started seeing firefighting content on social media and hearing stories about the career that he got interested in the fire service. Bessarab was accepted into the Resident Intern Program in 2023 and is currently completing his first year as a student. “As soon as I got into the program, I realized this was the right career for me. I think it's part of being involved in something that's bigger than yourself. I'm able to come into work today, and I can help those who are having a bad day,” stated Bessarab. “If somebody's having their worst day, it’s my job to make them feel better. I'm not the only one in this department that’s making a difference; we're all coming together to help not only individuals but the community as a whole,” he added.

Dennis always felt like the odd one out in his family, and when he told them this was the career path he wanted to go down, they weren’t surprised. “My family would say, ‘Oh, it's Dennis; he's going to do whatever he wants!’” chuckled Bessarab. He might have moved a few hours away from his family, but he fits right in with our family at Umatilla County Fire District #1. “I moved here to Hermiston, three hours away from my family, and I had no experience at all. I’ve loved every second of it, even going through the academy. Those hot, sweaty days were super fun. If you like helping people and the adrenaline rush, it can be a really fun job. Being able to experience those situations with your shift mates creates a strong bond with everyone here,” declared Bessarab.

Two paramedics loading an empty stretcher into an ambulance.

When Bessarab is not in class at Blue Mountain Community College or working at Station 21, he enjoys spending his free time at the gym or watching soccer. Bessarab started playing soccer when he was four years old and went on to play all four years of high school. Being active is pertinent to being a firefighter; this is another reason why Dennis has enjoyed this career and program. Bessarab said, “I've always been athletic and into sports growing up; that’s why I thought I’d be good for this job. When I get to go train and go to the gym on shift, I’m doing this for my job. I get to go outside, be active, and pull dummies out of buildings, and that's all fun to me."

Dennis encourages those who are somewhat interested in the fire service to apply to the program and come to Station 21 for a ride-along. He had no experience before coming into the Resident Intern Program, and that’s perfectly okay! Most of the applicants that UCFD #1 gets for the RI Program have no experience in this field; that’s the point. We will give you the experience you need to be a successful first responder while you are here. “It's a potential career for everybody. I didn't even know I was going to be doing it until two years before I wanted to apply, and I had no experience at all when I was getting into it. I think if you have the slightest interest in the program, apply and come here for a ride-along, and if you get accepted, get ready to kick some butt,” stated Bessarab.

Dennis plans on doing a third year of the Resident Intern Program to earn his paramedic certification. He has hopes of getting a job here at UCFD #1 or at another fire department where he can put his skills to use. “This job gives back. You just feel like you're doing something good for your community. Being able to go with everybody on calls and make someone’s day, make them feel better—that’s just as good as it gets,” said Bessarab. “This is the best job in the world,” he added.

It is our goal to bring the community closer to our District by telling the stories of the men and women who represent Umatilla County Fire District #1. It’s better to meet them before you need them.

If you are interested in doing a ride-along with UCFD #1 or have questions about the Resident Intern Program, send an email to Nick Oatley at