GEARHART — On a Saturday morning in April, Josh Lair and his daughter, Amy, share a common destination: the Gearhart firehouse. Both are fire department volunteers.
The job isn’t what most people expect.
“You think of firefighters just putting fires out,” said Amy Lair, who recently earned her emergency medical technician license. “But there are some intense scenes that we come onto, and a lot of sad things happen. It’s kind of amazing to watch a whole group of people come together for one common cause, and just as volunteers.”
Josh Lair and his wife, Liz, moved with their five daughters from the Park City, Utah, area about four years ago. He joined the fire department in 2018.
Amy Lair spent summers and holidays with the family while pursuing her associate’s degree in health science at Dixie State University in St. George, Utah. After Amy received her degree, she moved to Oregon to join her family in early 2020.
“Amy’s plan previous to her move was to continue her health science degree at the University of Maine, after receiving an academic scholarship in that field,” Liz Lair said. “However, she witnessed what her dad was doing with Gearhart fire and came to the realization that she wanted to help people as a first responder.”
When the University of Maine decided to suspend classes due to the coronavirus pandemic, Amy saw an opportunity to make a change in her life path and joined the fire department as intern.
“I pretty much make sure everything’s working so that when we go to calls, nothing is missing and we have everything we need,” she said.
She learned to drive the firetruck from the previous intern, James Hutchinson, now a fire lieutenant.
“There’s a process to learning to drive the apparatus,” Josh Lair said. “Drivers must log a certain amount of time behind the wheel before certification. It’s really up to each volunteer to commit their time to that. And Amy did that very quickly. You want to learn how to drive as many apparatus as she can.”
She is certified on everything except for the department’s Unimog, he added, referring to the department’s all-wheel truck.
“We’ve been on some really basic calls and some pretty intense calls together,” he said. “You get a little particularly scared or upset when you see her taking some risks. The firefighter part of me is saying, ‘Let’s get after it, let’s go into it.’ But knowing that this is my daughter, there’s a different level of concern for me when we’re on those calls together.”
Amy Lair said she found it comforting to have her father at her side. “I know what to expect and that he knows my abilities,” she said. “There’s no questions there. But he’s a person that I turn to when I think I’m going into a stressful situation for comfort and his experience.”
Along with firefighting, Josh Lair is maintenance manager of WorldMark in Seaside.
Amy Lair is a waitress at Mo’s in Seaside and coaches junior varsity softball at Seaside High School.
Of the five daughters — the oldest is 24 and the youngest 7 — daughter No. 4, Delilah, is “very much willing to follow in the footsteps of her big sister,” Josh Lair said. “It’s pretty cool.”
Gearhart is recognized for a high number of women fire volunteers, with seven active with the department. “I think a lot of it has to do with the culture of the fire department,” Amy Lair said. “There are a few women that have been on there for a while now. And they make it a safe and comfortable place for other women to want to join.”
The Lairs hope their model will serve as an inspiration to future volunteers.
“It takes a special kind of person to be able to do these things,” Josh Lair said. “And we’re always looking for those special people to join us. The culture of the Gearhart Fire Department is such that we’re welcoming of anybody and everybody who wants to learn how to do this. And if you become an intern like Amy, you can get a fire science degree and become an EMT, and the department pays for all those things for you.
“Being on those calls with her, it just makes me incredibly proud to be her dad and watch her do what she does.”