By trade, he’s a dairy farmer milking 100 cows on his organic farm in Hubbard, Oregon. But with 27 years volunteering as a firefighter, Steve Aamodt is also a humble hero.
“I started volunteering because it sounded like fun, and it became a way to give back to the community,” said Steve. He is currently serving as Assistant Chief in the Monitor Rural Fire Protection District.
Over almost three decades volunteering, Steve has put in close to 3,000 hours of training, not to mention his time responding to emergency calls. “People don’t call 9-1-1 on their best day. It’s nice to be able to help people.”
It seems that farming and firefighting go hand in hand, as six of the current thirteen Monitor volunteers are also farmers. But rural volunteer fire isn’t wasn’t it used to be. “When I joined, there were nearly thirty volunteers and most of them were farmers,” he said. “Now, there are fewer farmers in the community, and fewer firefighters. Farmers just know about helping other people, you help your neighbor, it’s just what you do,” said Aamodt.
Steve also attributes farmers’ inclinations to be firefighters to their ‘fix-it’ attitude.
“If something on the farm goes wrong, you can’t just run around screaming ‘oh no!’
You have to be of a mindset to fix a problem when you see a problem,” he said. “That helps, I think.”
STEPPING UP TO SUPPORT WORTHY CAUSES
This year, this volunteer firefighter ‘stepped up’ in a big way by participating in two firefighter stair climb fundraisers. These fundraisers, in Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, are open solely to career or volunteer firefighters. The challenge is to climb the stairs of a building in full turnout gear, which weighs over 50 pounds, including their Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA). The Portland stair climb is 41 floors, and the Seattle stair climb is a whopping 70 flights of stairs – the largest such stair climb competition in the nation.
Steve signed up for the Seattle event knowing it was going to be a challenge. “I didn’t realize just how hard it was going to be for me at 58 years old. All the years that I’ve been a farmer I’m sure helped me to do it, just because I have worked hard my whole life, but it really was the single hardest thing I have ever done,” said Aamodt.
And the fundraising was just as important to Steve. “The Seattle stair climb is a fundraiser for leukemia, so I started talking with the people I do business with, and started getting donations. That was fun, too, because it became another way to give back.” In all, the 2018 LLS Firefighter Stairclimb earned $2.61 million for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to support blood cancer research.
While smaller, the Portland Firefighter Stairclimb Challenge, a fundraiser for cystic fibrosis, was no less significant for Steve who climbed all forty floors with a photo of his friend’s daughter on his helmet. “It’s not as hard, because it’s less floors, but it has become really special to me because of raising money for cystic fibrosis. I have a friend whose daughter gave part of her lung to her cousin who had it, so I dedicate my climb to them. That’s become pretty special too.” Since 2009, this event has raised $1.2 million toward finding a cure for cystic fibrosis.
IT’S BECOMING A FAMILY TRADITION
Three of Aamodt’s children are first responders. His oldest son is a full-time firefighter in Canby, Oregon, and his youngest son is an EMT in Salem as well as a volunteer firefighter in Monitor and Canby. His daughter also recently joined the volunteer program in Aurora and is currently completing her 120 hours of training through a firefighting academy.
All three of his children participated in the Portland challenge this year, and the boys also participated in the Seattle climb. “My son did it first,” Aamodt said, and now they are all hooked. “Standing on the 70th floor with my son was just the biggest thrill,” he said.
Steve, along with his two sons, are already signed up to participate in the Seattle stair climb challenge on March 10, 2019. That event sold-out within 15 minutes of registration opening. If you would like to donate to Steve’s quest in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, you can visit his fundraising page.