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Nicholson Finds Firefighting a Perfect Fit posted on 06/30/2023
Fire Focus

By Ty Walker
The Mountain Times

Growing up in Eastern Oregon, Matt Nicholson said he was either going to be a firefighter, like his older brother, or a schoolteacher, like his parents.
Both are noble professions. But his parents cautioned him about teaching, which would confine him to a classroom.
Matt loved the great outdoors, so it was only natural that he would want to protect it. He followed in his big brother Max’s footsteps and decided to be a firefighter. Matt enrolled as a student in the same volunteer firefighting school his brother went to 2 years before him.
Matt already had a hand-me-down uniform with his name on it – M. Nicholson. So he didn’t have to buy a new one for school, thanks to his brother.
Firefighting turned out to be a perfect fit for both Nicholson brothers. Matt Nicholson is apparatus engineer at the Hoodland Fire District in Welches, where he’s worked for almost 5 years. Max fights fires in La Grande for the Oregon Department of Forestry.
“I like firefighting because of the teamwork aspect of it – the camaraderie,” Nicholson said. “It’s something different every day. It’s a very dynamic career and that was very appealing to me.”
During down time, there’s always something to do around the Hoodland Fire Station. As apparatus engineer and paramedic, Nicholson makes sure all the equipment and emergency meds are ready to go at any time when they get a call.
Nicholson said he likes being part of the action on the frontlines, protecting lives and land. It’s much better than working in an office stuck behind a desk, sitting on the sidelines to watch.
He said one of his most intense experiences was being sent to help fight the raging wildfires in Estacada in 2020.
“The fire was right up in my face and we were evacuating people and [were] given land to protect,” Nicholson said. “That was one of the more wild times.”
Nicholson said he has responded to car crashes in the Mount Hood area that required him to cut cars to pieces trying to save lives. “I’ve seen some pretty gnarly wrecks,” he said.
Hoodland Fire District is facing a problematic trend other fire districts are seeing nationwide, Nicholson said. That is, retaining volunteer firefighters to complement the paid career staffers.
So, Nicholson started recruiting students for a volunteer firefighting school in Welches. He has visited local high schools to talk about the program, similar to the school that got him started growing up in La Grande.
There are four local students enrolled in the first class, scheduled to start in late June, but it is budgeted for six, Nicholson said. Interested students must be a high school graduate, at least 18 years old and have a valid driver’s license.
Nicholson lives in Brightwood with his wife Rhiannon, daughter Elenora and son Artemis. He enjoys hiking in Wildwood with his family and is learning how to make stained-glass feathers in his spare time.



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