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Evergreen Fire/Rescue prepared to serve the community

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By Deb Hurley Brobst

Second in a five-part series on first responders in the area.

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It takes a village for Evergreen Fire/Rescue to provide the emergency services needed in the Evergreen area.

The 87 volunteer firefighters, 25 paid staff and the 16 recruits in training to become firefighters — plus the seven members of the Turnouts auxiliary — all make the fire department run smoothly 24/7. EFR is considered one of the largest volunteer fire departments in the state.

“Evergreen Fire has felt very fortunate that Evergreen has a volunteer spirit,” Chief Mike Weege said. “Not being a city, people step up to take care of business throughout the district. It’s one thing that I love about Evergreen.”

The Evergreen Fire Department began in 1948, and four years later — after a young girl struck by a car on Evergreen’s Main Street waited an hour for an ambulance — many of the folks who started the fire department created an ambulance service. The two merged in 1987.

“It’s a very different, unique volunteer organization,” said EFR Capt. Stacee Martin, who has been a firefighter for 16 years. “This is different than volunteering at an animal shelter or for the Boy Scouts. You could potentially risk your life. We make sure people understand that and know what they’re getting into.”

Weege said while volunteerism in fire departments is dropping nationally, that’s not the case in Evergreen — something he’s proud of and grateful for.

Weege said being a volunteer firefighter is not a typical volunteer opportunity.

“It really is a job,” he said. “Requirements to be a volunteer firefighter, you’re not just responsible for fighting fires, you have to be a jack-of-all-trades. You learn to be proficient in a wide range of skills.”

The department covers 124 square miles and 28,000 residents, and in 2018, it responded to 2,262 calls and completed 9,054 training hours for wildland fire, fire behavior and control, medical and rescues. On average, a volunteer firefighter stays with the department seven and a half years.

While the fire department and first responders are doing their jobs, they now have an auxiliary organization to help with community outreach and other activities. For everyone, it’s all about helping others.

Rae Cronk, whose husband is a member of the department, said being president of the Turnouts is all about helping the community.

“I think (the Turnouts) mirror the fire department as a whole,” she said. “For my background, it’s a Christian mandate to help other people. That’s part about being a good human being — to help other people and be in their lives. This is important. We’ve helped our neighbors when they have fallen down.”

The Turnouts was revived two years ago, and it helps with the department’s Health and Safety Day, Big Chili, EPAD (Evergreen Public Access Defibrillation) golf tournament, office duties and last week, Turnouts members were changing batteries in public AEDs (automated external defibrillators) around town.

Weege said the department has a good feel for the level of service the community expects.

“The community needs are growing, and we need to be prepared to react,” Weege said. “The great thing is that in Evergreen, if it needs to be done, someone will step up to get it done.”