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UCFD #1 Hot Seat: Reece Sheller

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It’s time for the twentieth 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 UCFD #1 introduces to you; Reece Sheller. Born in Pendleton, OR and raised in Hermiston, OR, Sheller has spent his whole life in Eastern Oregon. While growing up, Sheller always had a craving for adrenaline. When he was young it was rollercoasters, now it’s firefighting. Oddly enough, few people understood Reece’s love for living life on the edge. “I remember the first time my family and I went to an amusement park, it was a family friend that had to take me on my first rollercoaster because none of my family wanted to do it. My brother, my mom, and my dad waited at the bottom, none of them wanted to ride the rollercoaster with me,” recalled Sheller. Then, one day in the fifth grade Sheller came across a book about smoke jumpers. Smoke jumpers are trained wildland firefighters who provide an initial attack response on remote wildland fires. This is what Reece wanted to do when he grew up and his parents thought this job sounded dangerous, they always have been protective of him. As Sheller was getting ready to graduate from Hermiston High School in 2019 he started looking at other job avenues, one being a psychologist. When it came time to go to college though, Sheller never forgot about that book he read in fifth grade. He starting researching local firefighting opportunities and came across UCFD #1’s Resident Intern Program. “With the UCFD #1 Resident Intern Program you get part of your school paid for and you get on the job experience, that’s the way to go,” Sheller exclaimed.

Unfortunately, UCFD #1 wasn’t accepting application for the RI Program at the time Sheller was looking to apply so he decided to jump start the program himself and enroll at Blue Mountain Community College where he started  completing the necessary prerequisites for the program. The following year though, Sheller applied for the program, got accepted and now he is completing his third and final year as a Resident Intern. When he first joined the program it didn’t take much for Sheller to feel right at home. Just the atmosphere alone at Station 21 made him feel like he was where he was supposed to be. “I remember showing up to my first couple shifts, learning all of the gear and getting to actually play with stuff, having my own set of turnouts, even getting to sit in like the firetruck. That was almost all I needed. I was so excited to be there but the more experience I got, it just solidified that I made the right choice,” he said. The Resident Intern Program is designed to give students the knowledge in the classroom and on the job experience where they can learn first hand. What makes the emergency services so interesting is all of the different types of situations you encounter as a firefighter and as an EMT. “The first time you actually see a really sick patient and you’re like, okay it’s time for me to do something and you get to actually do the things that you’ve been learning and training on, it feels good to be able to apply the skills you’ve learned,” explained Sheller. Emergency services is a job where learning things in person is pertinent, in most cases you have to get written off for on the job experience for certain calls. This is what makes the RI Program so special, along with the fact that UCFD #1 helps pay for the student’s schooling. Also, it helps that there are all types of fire and EMS professionals within our department that students get the opportunity to learn from while working alongside them. “Having on the job experience is priceless. Obviously the money towards schooling is helpful too, along with a place to live. This is a job and career where you can’t really learn everything from a book though, you have to see things in person. You have to experience what it’s like to be on a fire scene because you can read about fire scenes or EMS calls all day, but until you’re there and you understand how your brain works in that scenario and how you can handle a stressful situation, that’s priceless. Once you kind of figure out how you operate in those scenarios, you can start to form your own identity within those situations,” said Sheller. As Sheller comes to the end of his third year as a student, he will graduate as a Firefighter/Paramedic and will be able to apply to jobs nationwide.

In contrast to his parent’s first impressions of desired career choice, they are now comfortable with him being in the fire service. They enjoy hearing about all the hard work Sheller puts in and the things he is learning on each shift. “They definitely like to hear that I’m learning and making actual progress. They love hearing all that stuff and they’re very supportive of me. I can’t thank them enough for that. I have awesome parents. I would like to say they’re very proud of me,” expressed Sheller. Having a good support network is key in the fire service, especially the brotherhood and sisterhood at each department. “There is plenty of camaraderie here, even when I first started I felt that everyone working on shift is very close with one another. Everyone is pretty much friends inside and outside of work, and I think that’s special. That was pretty welcoming to come into as a resident intern,” stated Sheller.

When Sheller isn’t studying or working on shift you might see him riding his motorcycle down an open road. He loves taking trips on his motorcycle and hopes to get a new bike one day. Other than that, Sheller really enjoys listening to music and playing his guitar. “Music is a big one for me. I love listening to music and I love playing music. School has not given me a ton of time to play music lately, but I won’t ever get rid of my guitars. You couldn’t convince me to. I love going to concerts as well,” he said. 

For those reading that might be interested in applying to the Resident Intern Program, Reece encourages you to at least try a ride along first. “If you’re on the fence about going into emergency services, the Resident Intern Program is definitely the way to do it. You can dip your toes in and see if you like it, see if this is really what you wanna do, and I think that’s very important, especially in a career field like this. You get on the job experience with fire and EMS professionals plus the schooling, so you kind of get the best of both worlds and I think that’s really important. I’m glad I joined the Resident Intern Program. You can do all the schooling you want but as you start seeing what it’s like in person, that’s the most valuable part of it. That’s why I always tell people, even if you are just thinking about it, come do a ride along with us and you’ll quickly realize whether you like it or you not,” suggested Sheller.

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.