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UCFD #1 Hot Seat: Kevin Tassie

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It’s time for the fifth edition of the UCFD1 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 UCFD1 introduces to you, Kevin Tassie. Tassie is a Hermiston native who has been with our District since August of 1979. He is right there at the top of the list with more time put in than most of our staff here. A lot of kids aspire to be like their mom or dad when growing up, Tassie was no different. At the age of five he would go to the station with his father, Ralph Tassie, where Fire Chief Bob Russel gave him the nickname “Fireman”. Tassie explains, “I remember being a little kid going down to the station with him and checking the trucks because he was volunteering. My father had to go down once a week, start the trucks and pull them out. One time we were down there and I was hanging out with the Fire Chief. His name was Bob Russell and he kept calling me ‘fireman’ and I got used to that and so I just kind of grew up with it and it just stuck with me ever since.” Instead of exploring other career paths as he got older, Tassie job was more or less appointed to him and he accepted it with open arms.

Umatilla County Fire District #1 wasn’t always the department it is today, before the merger in 2016 there was Hermiston Fire and Stanfield Fire. Tassie’s father Ralph found himself being one of the very first career firefighters hired by Hermiston fire back in 1975. Before working as a career firefighter, Ralph Tassie not only was volunteering for Hermiston Fire but he was also a cop for the Hermiston Police Department. Just like his dad, Kevin decided to volunteer in 1979 where he quickly learned about what it meant to be a firefighter. He was only 17 at the time, just a couple months away from his 18th birthday, when a mobile home fire was toned out. With only three months of training under his belt, Kevin was about to experience his first ever fire with the man he looked up to most, his dad. “It was opening day of deer season and I was still 17 and was heading down to the station. At that time, there was only two career firefighters and they had to wait for two volunteers to show up. My dad was on shift with another guy and they kept toning out and they weren’t getting a response. So my dad looks at me and he says, ‘You want to go ahead and respond?’ And I said, yeah but I really haven’t had the training. He said, ‘You’ll go behind me and we’ll get through it.’ I said, okay. So we responded and it was a heavily involved mobile home. I remember crawling through the smoke with dad… we got the fire out and we were sitting on the truck cooling off. My adrenaline was really high, it was just exciting. I got to do my first fire with my dad and after that call Chief Shull told me I could go ahead and respond since the guys feel comfortable with me. It’s a great memory,” recalls Tassie. Moments like these leave a lasting impression, especially when you endure it with your family.

Family is what makes UCFD1 special. We are a close brotherhood built on the pillars of pride, honor and dedication. Our personnel is built up of 35 career firefighters and 30 volunteers that work together 24/7, 365. Tassie explains, “The camaraderie is what makes UCFD1 special. We’ve got our very good rapport as far as the career and the volunteer guys. Back in the day they only had a couple career guys on the shift. Now, we’ve got more guys on shift, but I’ve noticed that we’re a lot closer than we were then. And I’m sure some of them still have the same feeling, but back in the early eighties when I was working as a POC or volunteer I think the career guys fell threatened because they felt like we were there to take their job and that’s not the case. We’re all here to do the same job and help each other out. What I really enjoy is the chance to help out others and getting to know people.”  

When Kevin isn’t volunteering his time for the District he enjoys being in the company of his wife, June. Kevin and June like to go travel, camping and spending time with their two grandsons, Axel and Wyatt. Kevin was also a big bowler back in the day. “When I was in my late twenties, early thirties I bowled in seven leagues a week, four here and three in the Tri Cities. Now I’m not quite so serious in it,” said Tassie.

Every year UCFD1 holds a banquet to give out awards for personnel that performed above and beyond for not only our District, but the communities we serve. Tassie hasn’t one just one award, or two, but he’s been recognized 3 times in 42 years. Tassie exclaims, “I retired in August and I told myself I’m going to put more time into the department and it shows that they recognized it, that I was doing it. It feels good to be recognized.” Tassie has put in more time serving our District than most could imagine doing. He truly is one of a kind when it comes to showing dedication to the fire service. Not everyone has what it takes to be a firefighter or a paramedic. “It takes a special person. Not everybody can do it in the fire service anyway. It’s helping the community and that’s something that I’ve always enjoyed doing. I’m a people person. Here locally, I’ve really enjoyed helping people and later on seeing them and getting their appreciation,” Tassie professed. Not everyone has to be a career firefighter/paramedic, you can volunteer your time to helping out the community you live in. It’s people like Tassie and our group of volunteers that help make UCFD1 who we are. The relationship that our POCs and career staff share is special and not something that can be found in other departments. 

“We’re always looking for a good volunteers and it does take a special person. I’d call it an adrenaline rush… and you can’t explain it. You’ve got to experience it. Unless you try it, you’re not going to know if you can do it. You know, a lot of people can say, oh, I can ride on the fire truck and listen to the siren but to actually be a POC and put in the time in training is very important and I encourage anybody to apply,” Tassie disclosed. “And once I retire from here, I’d be willing to help them,” he added.

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.