In an age of thermal imaging cameras, self-contained breathing apparatuses and robotics, it is easy to forget that firefighting is not only a science but also a craft.
An art that Captain Stan Grove of the La Grande Fire Department has spent much of the past two decades helping other firefighters master.
“He is dedicated to his craft and leading new people to it,” said Capt. Robert Tibbetts of the La Grande Fire Department.
Grove has been a member of the La Grande Fire Department for the past 28 years and now is leaving his department in the hands of many firefighters he helped train.
“He has been a great mentor. He wants to see people be successful in a job he is very passionate about,” said Jennifer Fox, LGFD’s administrative assistant.
Tibbetts said Grove has the perfect demeanor for a mentor: “He is
patient and always kind.”
Grove is stepping down to get a break from the physical and psychological stress he regularly confronted as a firefighter.
“It is a young man’s job,” Grove said. “It is hard missing sleep and always staying ready.”
He said that arising in the middle of the night to respond to an emergency is always challenging but aided by a feeling of urgency.
“You get an adrenaline rush coming out of a deep sleep,” Grove said.
Such shocks to one’s system take a toll, and in a sense firefighters rarely completely wind down.
“Strong adrenaline is still there continually,” Grove said.
The firefighter, 59, said he began realizing it was time to consider
retiring when he saw an increasing age discrepancy between himself and the youngest firefighters.
“I’m old enough now to be the grandfathers of some of them,” he said.
LGFD firefighters work 48-hour shifts followed by 72 hours off. Firefighters off duty, however, are always on call in case there is a major emergency in which additional first responders are needed. They must sleep with their pagers on so they can respond at a moment’s notice.
Grove’s family has become accustomed to hearing calls on Stan’s pager, according to his oldest daughter, Lisa. She said her family is looking forward to seeing what evenings will be like without hearing emergency dispatch calls.
“We may or may not miss being awakened by the pager sounds. Probably not,” she said at a retirement party for her father on Wednesday.
Like all full-time firefighters with the LGFD, Grove is an emergency medical technician who has made countless calls to provide medical assistance. He had been responsible for accessing and stabilizing the condition of patients, managing fractures, doing CPR, controlling bleeding and more.
Fox said Grove maintains a reassuring manner when assisting people who are hurting.
“He has a good bedside manner, (and) he genuinely cares. He is there to make your day better,” Fox said.
Grove’s wife, Vicki, said her husband as a firefighter saw many traumatic circumstances but he kept them to himself, never burdening her or their three daughters.
‘He absorbed so much, but he shielded it from our family. He was given a heavy load,” said Vicki Grove, who will celebrate her 39th wedding anniversary with Stan later this year.
Stan Grove worked as vehicle alignment specialist before beginning his career with the La Grande Fire Department. He made the move because he felt the need to lend a helping hand.
“I wanted to serve the community,” he said.
Grove joined the fire department when it was on Washington Avenue, where it had been for many decades.
“There was so much history there,” Grove said.
The fire department moved into its present station off of Cove Avenue about 20 years ago. Grove said it offers many advantages including additional space and being more centrally located.
The new station also has an icon from the past: a fire pole to allow firefighters to more quickly reach the ground floor from their upstairs accommodations. Grove used the pole frequently. He said it is safe to use as long as one is careful to wrap their legs around it first.
New tools LGFD firefighters have gained access to since Grove started his career include thermal imaging cameras, which detect heat.
“They can tell you where people are in a burning building and where a fire started,” Grove said.
Throughout his tenure with the department, Grove has continued to pursue one of his favorite avocations: playing rock and roll music on his bass guitar. He is not in a band but hopes to spend additional time in retirement playing music with his friends.
“It is a fun way to relax,” Grove said.
A new hobby Grove will be taking on is collecting thunder eggs, which are rocks formed within volcanic ash. They are often the size of a baseball and appear ordinary from outside but sometimes have quartz and
gypsum crystals inside.
“They are always intriguing. You don’t know what you have until you look inside,” said Grove, who added he has long been interested in
Long-time avocations Grove will continue to pursue include bowhunting. Big game animals Grove has taken with his bow include a Rocky Mountain elk that had enough antler points to quality for the Pope & Young Club’s record book. The Pope & Young Club is recognized as the official repository for records on bow-harvested North American big game animals.
Grove enjoys bowhunting because he likes the challenge it poses.
“You have to get closer (to animals than when hunting with a rifle),” he said.
The mount of the bull elk that made the Pope & Young record book is displayed at the La Grande Fire Department’s station. It is one Grove will see during the many future visits he will be making to the station to enjoy coffee with his colleagues, stopovers he would not dream of missing because of the bonds he has with department members.
“(The LGFD staff) is my second family,” Grove said.