A Colfax volunteer emergency medical technician and firefighter said the joy of working for a small-town fire department is being able to help the people he knows.
Jim Krouse, 74, has been assisting familiar faces in need for 50 years. Even in his retirement, he is still not done helping people.
The community will celebrate Krouse’s 50-year anniversary with the fire department Sunday at the Colfax Fire Station at 1 p.m.
Krouse retired as the Colfax Fire Department chief in 2010, but continues to volunteer as an EMT and reserve firefighter. After retiring from his full-time job as a meat cutter at Rosauers in 2010, Krouse said, he has more time to devote to the fire station, and usually responds to 200 patients a year as an EMT.
“It’s a hobby and a passion,” he said.
Two years after joining the fire department in 1969, Krouse said, he attended the first-ever EMT class held in Whitman County and discovered he had a knack for the job. In 1973, he was elected fire chief, even though he had no intention of becoming one. While initially overwhelmed by his new role, Krouse said he took on the learning process with the help of his staff.
“Basically, I would say most of my success as being fire chief was because of the good personnel that worked under me,” he said.
One of those successes, he said, has been the increased awareness and efforts in helping first responders cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It is an issue that is personal to Krouse. Not only has he witnessed his colleagues deal with it, but he learned that PTSD killed his father, a former Colfax fire chief, when Krouse was 13.
He remembers incidents when his fellow volunteers chose to walk away from the job after responding to a particularly devastating fire or car wreck.
In the 1980s, Krouse attended a class on PTSD and he later helped form a PTSD team in Whitman County to help first responders suffering from the disorder.
“If you can keep your people so they’re healthy from post traumatic stress, then you can keep them longer,” he said. “The longer you keep them, the more of an asset they are to you because the more they know.”
While there are many risks that come with the job, Krouse said they are outweighed by the rewards.
He said firefighters get more out of the job than what they put in because, he said, “when you try to help somebody, it will come back to you with interest.”
“It’s been very, very rewarding being able to go out when somebody is in their dire straits, they’re house is burning or their mother’s dying, or they’re in a car wreck and you’ve got to untangle them and get them out,” he said. “You can’t believe how rewarding that is.”
Krouse, who also beat cancer in 2002, said he wants to continue to serve the city he was born and raised in as long as he is able. His goal is to continue to be a mentor to the younger first responders.
“One of my goals is to pass along as much information as I can to the younger generations so that they may have one of those ‘a-ha’ moments when they say, ‘I can remember when Chief Krouse told me that,’ ” he said.
Krouse, who has been married for 52 years, has a daughter who is a Colfax city clerk and his son is a firefighter in Spokane.
Anthony Kuipers can be reached at (208) 883-4640, or by email to email@example.com.