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UCFD #1 Hot Seat: Sean Basford

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It’s time for the seventh 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; Sean Basford. Basford started volunteering at the Fire District on April 2, 1993. This coming April will mark 29 years of dedication for Sean. Being a volunteer differs from being a career firefighter, from sacrificing your own time to working around your 9-5 job all to help make a difference in the community. This is what Sean Basford lives for, and excels in. “The amount of time we spend fighting fires and training, unlike others that spend time boating or going out on the town, we’re down there and we are doing it. Many of us (volunteers) realized some time ago that firefighting was in our blood. We love this job… and because everybody that we work with loves this job, that’s what keeps us loving it,” explained Basford

Before joining the Fire District as a volunteer in 1993, Basford was stationed in Orange County, CA at the Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. In October of 1986 he joined the Marine Corps and spent six years in the 3rd Marine Air Wing where he deployed all over the world including The Gulf War. A Baker City native, Basford moved back to Oregon following his stint in the Marine Corps and settled down in Hermiston. Basford admits, “I grew up in Baker City, OR, but only lived there 14 years and now I’ve been here in Hermiston for 29 years. So this is my new hometown.” Hermiston was the home his parents when they were growing up, along with both sets of grandparents. It was just his second day living in Hermiston when he went down to the station and applied to be a volunteer. Shortly after, he started working a furniture delivery job, and in 1994 joined the Oregon Army Air Guard. From there he went on to fly in Hueys and Chinooks along with helicopter maintenance with the Oregon Army Air Guard all while trying to get on full-time at Hermiston Water Department. “I just felt really spread out so I left the Guard after two years and within five months I got hired at the Water Department,” recalled Basford. The City Engineer of Hermiston was also a volunteer at the department, Pat Napolitano. Once Pat got to know Sean, he told him about an open position at the Hermiston Water Department that would be a perfect fit for him. Basford had always wanted to be a fire fighter and even thought about joining LAFD while he was living in California. “I had no idea of how real fire department worked, just from what I’ve seen in the movies and I had even less knowledge of a working water department, but I’ve enjoyed it. Early on, we used to be able to break away on some of the bigger calls from the city and go respond at the station and take calls… as with anything things change over time and it’s not feasible anymore. When I’m not working, if I can get to there I will respond as much as I can,” stated Basford.

A lot of things have changed over time in the fire industry, from call volumes to the equipment firefighters use and wear. Back when Basford joined the department, Hermiston was considerably smaller with 25% of the calls we now respond to. “Back in 1993 I think we had roughly the same number of fires, but because we only had a fraction of the career people I was able to get a lot of on the job training right off the bat. I went on dozens of structure and grass fires that helped me a lot,” explained Basford. “I am always learning something new every day, even though I’ve been here for years. I rely on them (career staff) because they do it every single day. They may know something or see something that I wouldn’t have known for a few weeks, but they let me know, they show me what they did,” he added. Along with the call volume, the relationship between volunteers and career staff has grown over time. Basford is very fortunate for the career staff here at UCFD #1 and says he couldn’t be more proud of what they do. They have even responded to his own 911 calls for family and coworkers before that left him humbled by his fellow comrades. “I’m always impressed with all that they get done. I’ve had to call 911 multiple times, for situations at my house or at work or for my child and they’ve been awesome. Even if I wasn’t doing this, I’m so proud of this department and I trust them to get the job done,” said Basford.

Besides fire and water, another one of Basford’s passions is model railroading. Both Sean and his son, Kaiden, enjoy watching trains, learning about them, videoing them and also making model trains. “I have a plan to build large railroad room layout in my house one day, because we want to do it right. We have always wanted to do it and I tell myself I’ll always regret it if I don’t build the way I envisioned it,” he said. When Basford isn’t spending time with his son he enjoys physical fitness and working out. Whether its strength training, cardio or even running trails at the Hermiston Butte with a friend, he enjoys being fit like he was in the Marine Corps. “I don’t think I could do this water job or the firefighting job if I wasn’t fit, I’m no spring chicken anymore,” Basford explained. “I want to be able to retire and be just as active and healthy in the fire department and just life as I am this minute,” he added.

Looking back at his time spent in the Marine Corps, Basford has found a common thread between serving his country and working for UCFD #1; the camaraderie. In the Marine Corps, your brother or your sister will always watch your back and the same can be said in the fire service. “Marines are always Marines. We just are. If there’s a war tomorrow, we will be there if they ask us to and we will defend this nation to no end. That brotherhood and sisterhood, there’s only one other place I ever found it… and that’s the fire service. It’s the same, they are my brothers and sisters, we love each other. You do anything for your brother or sister and you keep coming back for more. You do everything to stay alive, but you sacrifice if need be,” he explained. “Not to belittle any other department out there in the state or the nation but I think this is one of the best there is,” Basford added. 

When asked what is it like to be a volunteer for UCFD #1 and be out in the public eye, Basford answered, “I would say that the support I’ve seen out in the community is great. I haven’t run into anybody that’s had anything negative to say and most are extremely supportive of the fire department. I think when they’re out and about, they see how busy it is because I’ll hear people say, ‘You’re on the fire department? Man there were sirens going off all day long!’ That is normal for us. That’s the way it is. Look at how much growth there’s actually been in this community — meaning the whole area of West Umatilla County, Morrow County, even East Umatilla County. There’s times when you just don’t see what the department’s having to do, just know that we greatly appreciate your support. We will always be there. We love doing this. This is why we do it. We know we have to be there because there isn’t anyone else. To quote Men in Black, ‘This is the first, last and only line of defense.’ It’s up to us and this is what we wanted to do. We chose this, nobody made us do this. We’re not conscripts. We love this. We found that we continue to love it. So we’re willing to do it and we know it’s going to get busier and we will put more people on if there’s an interest in the public at a position here, whether it’s part-time or full-time I encourage them to come down, but definitely do ride alongs, definitely talk to all of us and try to fully understand that we could use the help, but there’s a lot that we give as firefighters here at UCFD #1. It’s a big investment for all of us but it’s why we do it. We just really love it.” 

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.