Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Remembering Chief Mouser

I was saddened to hear that Sisters’ former fire chief Don Mouser has died.

Chief Mouser had been running the fire service here for almost 20 years when I got to town and started reporting on fire department issues.

I always enjoyed interviewing him — interviews that often turned into conversations, salted with stories of the old days in the Sisters fire service.

Chief Mouser was definitely what you’d call Old School — but he laid the groundwork for what has become a very up-to-date fire and medical service.

He started out as a logger — which I think most of the volunteer fire crew in the early days were. They did what they needed to do in the way that seemed best to them — and some of those ways would curl the hair and melt the eyeballs of a modern-day OSHA type.

It wasn’t that they were deliberately unsafe — they just had to make do with what they had and the techniques and tools at hand at the time. Heck, they don’t even let firefighters ride hanging on to the outside of engines any more.

Chief Mouser was riding a significant wave of change. For much of his 25 year tenure, Sisters remained a small and pretty sleepy town, but change was in the wind. Modernization was a must. The Sisters-Camp Sherman RFPD acquired new equipment and enhanced its training and professionalism.

Chief Mouser was one of the leaders of the charge to bring Sisters up to speed with an ambulance service and EMTs, believing that the fire district had to care for the medical needs of residents and visitors as well as protecting them from fire.

I always got the impression that the Chief was progressive in his thinking when it came to the kinds of services and skills Sisters needed in its fire department. But I don’t think he much cared for the added administrative burden that seems inevitably to come along with modernization.

Maybe that’s why our conversations toward the end of his tenure so often turned to the old days and the old way of doing things. That’s the way it is with pioneers. They can look with pride on what has come from their labors, but nothing has quite the tang of being in the thick of it, when the tasks were simple but difficult, when the world was young and so much needed to be done.

Hats off to you, Chief. You were a good man and you did a good job.

Jim Cornelius, Editor

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