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UCFD #1 Hot Seat: Dillon Tucker

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It’s time for the ninth 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. This month we are telling the story of a hard working and devoted resident intern.

It is with great pleasure UCFD #1 introduces to you; Dillon Tucker. Born and raised in Sisters, OR, Tucker never moved around as a kid. “I grew up in a small town with 2,000 people and got accustom to it. Then, one day I decided to move out because I wanted to see something a little bigger. I’ve been in Sisters my whole life and to come out and meet new people has been great,” recalled Tucker. Dillon joined Umatilla County Fire District #1 as a Resident Intern back on July 22, 2021. The Resident Intern program has provided Dillon with not only an education at Blue Mountain Community College but on the job experience working alongside A-shift on their 48 hour tours. From an early age, Dillon was always around the fire service. His father, Dan Tucker, joined the Black Butte Ranch Rural Fire District 35 years ago where he worked his way up through the ranks from student firefighter to Fire Chief. Dillon didn’t have what some would say is a ‘normal’ childhood, considering he would choose to spend time listening to his dad’s stories about firefighting, instead of going out to play with friends. “Growing up with your dad as a Fire Chief, you have a different perspective of life instilled in you. A lot of kids would go out and play, whereas I grew up with my Dad being in the fire service and he’d come home and tell his stories,” acknowledged Dillon. “I feel like it helped me understand what he did when he was away at work, I loved hearing about the calls he would go on and the car wrecks,” he added.

As a matter of fact, Dillon’s relationship with his father has only grown stronger since he’s come aboard UCFD #1. Back then, Dillon was always around the fire station at Black Butte but he never understood everything that was going on. But now, he can sit down at the table with his dad and family sharing stories from his own experiences on the job that have left a smile on his dad’s face. “I went back home after my first shift and told him I got my first fire and he just looked at me and smiled. He said, ‘You finally get it.’ I told him yeah, I finally understand it now,” said Dillon. Dillon continues, “Now we can share stories together. I’ve told them things that we do on our medical calls and he’s like, ‘I wouldn’t have never even thought to do that.’ He can tell me things of like, ‘When you pull a line, try to do this…’ and I can give it a shot when we train. You want to impress your parents, right? So when you teach them something, you feel really good about it. It’s been nice to be able to go home and tell stories for hours.” It’s every kid’s dream to make their parents happy and that feeling came true for Dillon when his hard work paid off. It wasn’t always going to be the fire service though. There was a moment while growing up where Dillon wanted to pursue baseball. At the age of 10, Dillon got a little burnt out on anything and everything fire and he started to focus on baseball. He was playing in competitive baseball leagues and little league. Baseball started to consume his life and he took his eyes off of becoming a firefighter and focused on becoming pro. In his junior year of high school there were a few places interested in Dillon for baseball but no where he dreamed of going. “Alabama State University wanted me. But I was not going to Alabama. So I figured well, I always wanted to do firefighting. That was still a thought in my head when I was playing baseball. Then I started talking to Chief Cearns out here and after he showed me around Hermiston and I thought yeah, I’m definitely doing this. I probably should have not have strayed away from it,” Dillon insisted. Dillon’s father couldn’t be more proud of the man he has grown up to be. Dan Tucker made sure his son wouldn’t follow in his footsteps just because he was a firefighter, but only if that’s what Dillon truly wanted to do with his life. “When Dillon was growing up, we were never sure where he was going to go. He was really into baseball and there’s a little heartbreak when you watch your child leave that sporting world because you saw the amount of heart they put into it. When they decide to go their own route, you have to support them. But I’m honored to see my son go down the same road. In fact, I even tried to warn him off of it. I just wanted to make sure he was trying to make the right decision and not just because there’s the lights, sirens and stuff,” said Dan Tucker.

Furthermore, Dillon has memories as a kid where a Captain at Black Butte would take him around the station, put him on the engine, hangout in the living quarters, etc. “He’d take me around the station and I might be able to sit down with the guys and they would chat with me when I was five years old,” explained Dillon. “I feel like where I grew up every little kid, every single one wanted to be a firefighter. They’re the cool guys. They don’t have a bad rap. So growing up when I was little, I always wanted to be a firefighter,” he added. 

Although, Black Butte Ranch had their fair share of action over there, Umatilla County runs a lot more calls than they do. This was not something that Dillon was used to hearing about as a kid, since Black Butte Ranch was a much smaller community than the area of Hermiston and Stanfield. Black Butte Ranch runs upwards of 400 calls per year, including Fire, EMS and motor vehicle accidents, while here we run between 5,500-6,000 calls per year. Also, our crews are filled with people who have been doing this years. “What I see here is experience. At UCFD #1 there are guys that are 20 year vets that can tell you all these stories from certain calls and what they learned from it. I want to be able to learn from these guys,” said Dillon. “Here we have a fire call pretty consistently and it’s fun to be able to put that knowledge to use and get those tips from the crews here,” he added.

In addition, becoming a Resident Intern at UCFD #1 wasn’t an easy task but it was something that was earned. The fire service is a lot like the military. There is a rank and order to everything. “There are times that you know you are on the bottom of the totem pole but there’s also times where you can speak up and be part of your crew. They rely on you just as much as you rely on them in a fire. They’re not going to rip the nozzle out of your hand if they don’t trust you, they’re gonna be right on your back and they’re going to help you do what you do, and importantly they’ll help you improve at it,” admitted Dillon. It’s hard work, but it’s totally worth it. As a resident intern, you live at the station with fellow interns who are also assigned to shifts and are enrolled the BMCC. “You enjoy your classmates that you’re around, they make it easier because you are going through the experience with them. You don’t get your “normal” college experience here. You go to work, you go to class and you sleep when you can. When you’re off shift you have just enjoy life rather than being consumed by firefighting all the time. The opportunity to have your school paid for is amazing and to be able to come out of this program virtually debt-free and get a job in the fire service, it’s amazing,” said Dillon. “It is a job for a certain type of person, some people won’t be able to do it to a degree. Everyone thinks of firefighting as just fire, whereas a lot of places are like us with medical services. It was my first cardiac arrest. Working that arrest, the call was kind of humbling. It’s not all just fires. We have to help people too. This is our job. It’s 95% of what we do. It’s not all fire,” he added. The Fire District is grateful for the citizens that we get to serve on a daily basis and our crews take pride in our community involvement. “I love the community that we have here at UCFD #1. When people in the grocery store say, ‘Oh, thank you for your service!’ It really does mean a lot. So when people recognize us, it’s really nice. It’s feels good to hear that from people. It shows that we’re involved in our community and they know who we are. It’s a cool feeling,” confirmed Dillon.

On the contrary, when Dillon isn’t on shift or at class he enjoys fishing and hunting when the season is right. Dillon explains, “If a buddy of mine wants to come out here, I’ll take them out and show them around town. I just enjoy the classic things like getting out and getting a little fresh air, taking a step away from school, life, and stress.” 

“I was just talking with people about how Dillon and I can actually sit down now and we talk the same lingo. Watching your teenager grow up, you kinda lose touch at times with what their current language is. But with him going off to do the same career, when he comes home, it’s a completely different person coming back home now. We can talk the same language and suddenly we’re on that same page together,” said Dan Tucker.

It is our goal to bring the community closer with 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.