Rookie’s commitment earns him honor

Scott Swanson

Of The New Era

Sam Posthuma didn’t really know what he wanted to do when he graduated from Sweet Home High School in 2002.

Now he does.

For the last year, Posthuma, 22, has been living and breathing firefighting as an intern at the Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District firehouse in Sweet Home since March of 2005.

On April 22 he was named Firefighter of the Year, a rare honor for a rookie.

“It was really unexpected,” said Postuma. “I never really tried for it. I just wanted to learn everything I could about firefighting. You’ve got to know fire behavior, you’ve got to know everything about your surroundings. I was a sponge. I wanted to soak everything up. I guess I did.”

Battalion Chief Guy Smith said Posthuma has made himself a student of .

“For the past year, he’s been here day in, day out, going on every fire we have. He’s always there.”

Posthuma said he moved to Sweet Home from Huntington Beach, Calif., in the first grade. He attended Oak Heights Elementary, then moved “from house to house” through his school years, he said.

He played soccer and basketball during his years at Sweet Home High School.

When Posthuma got to Linn-Benton Community College, he said, he didn’t have any concrete plans other than that he was interested in sports medicine, perhaps working as a sports therapist.

A friend suggested that Posthuma try the emergency medical technician basic program at LBCC.

He applied and got in during his second year at LBCC and things took off from there.

About two years ago, he got his first taste of life in the firehouse, landing a position as resident volunteer for the Halsey Fire Department for 10 months, during which he got some basic training, he said.

“Skip Smith, the chief there, taught me a lot,” Posthuma said.

But because Halsey was “kind of a slow department,” he got little “hands-on” experience, Posthuma said.

“I got wind that Sweet Home was hiring for an intern-medic position, so I applied here,” he said.

As intern, Postuma is responsible for one 24-hour shift every sixth day. He also lives at the fire station, so he goes on a lot of calls as a volunteer.

“If we have a callback, he’s one of the guys coming back in,” said Smith. Callbacks occur when a paramedic is needed to staff the station when the regular ambulance crew is out.

“He’s coming in on his days off, a hundred times a month,” Smith said.

Posthuma said he’s made great strides in his learning since coming to SHFAD.

“I felt welcome from Day One in Sweet Home,” he said. “People answered my questions. We have more burn-to-learns, more fires here.”

He said he’s been privileged to work with Smith and last year’s Fireman of the Year, Ken Weld.

“(The award) coming from Kenny Weld, he’s on my shift. He’s a great guy,” Posthuma said. “I wouldn’t have wanted to get it from anybody else.”

He said he plans to eventually land a job as a full-time firefighter-paramedic “preferably on the West Coast.”

In the meantime, he plans to keep soaking up firehouse lore.

“I’m getting there,” he said. “If you go out to a fire, and you don’t know what you’re doing inside or outside, you could put people in danger. I want to know every aspect of it. If you don’t, you’re screwed.”