Devin Cornford retired Wednesday morning after a three-decade career as a firefighter for the La Grande Fire Department.
Rest assured though that Cornford’s commitment to the La Grande Fire Department, like a timeless ember, will never be extinguished.
Cornford plans to continue working as a firefighter for the LGFD, filling in on calls when the department is shorthanded and even covering shifts when needed.
“I want to help out when I can,” Cornford said.
This means that an impressive set of family ties will remain in place at the La Grande Fire Department, for Cornford’s brother, Emmitt, has worked for the fire department for almost four decades.
“We are so fortunate to have someone with Devin’s skills and experience available. It will make a big difference,” said Emmitt Cornford, who is in his third stint as the LGFD’s interim director.
Emmitt Cornford said the City of La Grande’s nepotism rules have prevented him from working with his brother on the same shifts and they have not often seen each other on the job.
“I really wish we could have worked together more,” Emmitt Cornford said.
All firefighters in the La Grande
department, including Devin Cornford, are also paramedics, individuals who make more ambulance runs than they do responses to fires.
Jennifer Fox, the LGFD’s administrative assistant, said Devin Cornford is among the firefighters known for his ability to extend emotional support to people during medical emergencies.
“I hear a lot about the empathy he has,” Fox said.
Emmitt Cornford said that being able to provide emotional support like his brother does is critical in emergency situations.
“People need to know they have a friend, to have someone show they care,” the fire chief said.
Devin Cornford is also well known within the department as an outstanding teacher, adept at taking new firefighters under his wing.
“He is very good at working with people one-on-one,” Fox said.
Cornford began his career as a firefighter in 1989 when he started serving as a volunteer for the La Grande Fire Department. He served in this capacity for five years before being hired as a full-time firefighter.
The La Grande Fire Department was located on the 1200 block of Washington Avenue during Cornford’s initial years with the department before it moved to its current location at 1806 Cove Ave. Cornford said the new station has outstanding facilities but he sometimes laments having to leave the station on Washington Avenue.
“I miss the old place. It had a lot of character,” he said. “It is where I grew up (as a firefighter).”
La Grande firefighters now work 48-hour shifts and then have 96 hours off. Cornford said that when he started, firefighters worked 24-hour shifts and then had 48 hours off. He said he does not have a preference, although he noted it was nice having four days off at a time.
The shift schedule is a bit misleading since firefighters sometimes have to come in on their days off when there is a major fire. This means firefighters have pagers with them at all times during days off in case there is an alarm they need to respond to.
“You are never really off duty, but you get used to it,” Cornford said.
Working as a firefighter is as demanding as ever today, but some tasks are easier because of improved technology. Those Cornford particularly likes include automated machines that assist with CPR by doing chest compressions. This makes performing CPR less taxing.
“Doing chest compressions was very tiring,” he said.
Another tool Cornford appreciates is hydraulic lifts for gurneys. These allow firefighters to transport patients to and from ambulances with little or no lifting.
“Those are the best ever,” he said. “They are back savers.”
Thermal imagers that detect heat in burning buildings, Cornford said, also assist firefighters in a big way.
“They help us find people faster,” he said.
Cornford, who lives in La Grande, is looking forward to spending more time with his family, including his granddaughter, Riatt, now that he is retired. Cornford and his wife, Debbie, have a son, Gary, who lives in La Grande and a daughter, Nikkita, who lives in Summerville.
The firefighter will also be spending more time running his business, Tap That Growlers, which serves craft beverages. Tap That opened in 2014 on Adams Avenue and has five owners, all of whom are family members.
When not working or spending time with his family, Cornford plans to pursue his hobbies, which include playing golf and hunting and fishing. He most often plays golf at Buffalo Peak in Union. He said golf is a great stress reliever for him.
Cornford said his career as a firefighter has been fulfilling because of the opportunity it provided him to assist people and because of the friends he has made at the fire department.
“It has been tough, but I’m glad I did it,” Cornford said. “We have a good group of guys who I always looked forward to working with.”
He added that another plus of his job was the positive reception firefighters receive when they arrive at the scene of an emergency.
“They always know we are there to help,” Cornford said.