A volunteer fire department in North Powder is made possible, in part, by the dedication of full-time ranchers to their community.

North Powder, Ore., September 1, 2011 – What defines a hero? Someone who risks their life for the life of another? Someone who saves lives? The dictionary defines a hero as a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal. Would a rancher come to mind as a hero to you?

Just outside of North Powder (near La Grande), August 14tharound 7:30 pm, teacher and rancher, Cheryl Martin came upon a pick-up on its top end along the side of the road as she was taking salt blocks out to her cattle. With no hesitation, she stopped to see if anyone was hurt and found a gentleman, a little uneasy, but standing outside of the pick-up, who had crawled out of a broken window. She immediately called her son, Sam Martin, North Powder Fire Chief, who was on his way to change irrigation with his wife and two young kids. Sam is a volunteer rural and city firefighter as well as a quick responder in the North Powder area. He arrived at the accident just minutes later to assist the gentleman, in his ranch work clothes, and check him for any injuries. Shortly after, an ambulance showed up with Sam’s brother, Riley Martin and Colby Thompson, two other local full-time ranchers in the community, who work as volunteer firefighters and quick responders as well. Casey, Sam and Riley’s brother, is also a full-time rancher and volunteers for the fire department as well, but wasn’t on call as he just does fires. Precautions were taken for the individual involved in the accident to see that there were no internal injuries. Their timeliness was precise and impressive, knowing that some came from a ranch down the road with work on the ranch still needing to be done.

How many people do you know who work an 80-hour week (sometimes more) and still volunteer as a firefighter/quick responder, taking critical time away from their daily business routines? A day in the life of a rancher means early mornings, often before sunrise to move pipe for irrigation, followed by swathing, raking, and baling hay (even through the wee hours of the morning) during the summer, in addition to moving cattle to new pastures and giving them their necessary vaccinations. The winter months bring early hours as well as first time calving heifers require hourly checks throughout the night and feeding to keep them healthy and nourished through those cold months.

Ranching is a 24/7 job and ranchers don’t have the option to take a sick day if they’re not feeling well, as their animals come first. The job brings long hours and very physically exhausting work with little pay, and many still take the time to volunteer in their community such as the Martin’s and Colby Thompson.

Recognition is the last thing on their minds. They value life and family, like each and every one of us, and they care for their community, just as they do the livestock they raise.