Expand search form

Rare breed – Mt. Angel Fire District says ‘thank you’ – not ‘goodbye’ – to Don Seiler

By Stephen Floyd

Longtime Mt. Angel Fire District volunteer Don Seiler has earned a chance to sit out this coming fire season.

The 36-year veteran and former assistant fire chief still supports fellow firefighters as an honorary member, but has officially retired from the district as of Feb. 5.

Former Assistant Fire Chief Don Seiler with his commemorative plaque.
Former Assistant Fire Chief Don Seiler with his commemorative plaque.

“I miss going to the calls and stuff, maybe not so much the nighttime calls,” said Seiler. “I do miss the guys and the gals that are in the department, and it’s definitely a good group of people.”

Seiler joined MAFD in 1986 when Vic Hoffer Sr. was fire chief. He said his first major fire response was a blaze that destroyed a swimming pool at Mount Angel Abbey.

“That’s where we used to all go (for) swimming lessons, but the Abbey never did rebuild it,” he said.

He spent the next three-and-a-half decades serving in roles including equipment captain and division chief before being appointed assistant fire chief by Don Fleck, former fire chief and current mayor of Mt. Angel. Seiler also served under former chiefs Joe Traeger and Darin Unrein and current Chief Jim Trierweiler. He said he holds these men in high esteem.

It wasn’t until late in his volunteer career that Seiler responded to a fire that would really stick with him – the old Wilco building caught fire on Oct. 9, 2021. Even with more than 100 firefighters applying around one million gallons of water to the blaze, firefighters had no choice but to let the conflagration burn itself out.

“I just knew that we were going to be in for the long haul, there wasn’t going to be enough water to put it out, you could tell from the beginning,” he said. “…That was an intense fire. I’ll never forget that one.”

There were also memorable moments outside of emergency responses, including when Seiler and a colleague traveled to Appleton, Wisconsin, to pick up a new water tender. They drove the rig all the way back to Mt. Angel and, even though they took time to stop along the way and enjoy the local flavor, he said they still made it back “in record time.”

Don Seiler is thanked for 36 years of service to the Mt. Angel Fire District by Battalion Chief Ryan Kleinschmit, center, and Fire Chief Jim Trierweiler, right.
Don Seiler is thanked for 36 years of service to the Mt. Angel Fire District by Battalion Chief Ryan Kleinschmit, center, and Fire Chief Jim Trierweiler, right.

“That was a unique trip,” he said.

There’s debate about whether or not Seiler’s departure sets a record for years served with the district. Seiler says 36 years is the longest on paper, but he’s sure he can think of others who served just as long or longer. John Rossi, MAFD public information officer, said Seiler’s long tenure with the district – record-setting or otherwise – left him with a wealth of knowledge and experience that other volunteers could depend on.

“He was a good leader. People liked following him,” said Rossi.

He said it is difficult for MAFD and districts throughout the country to find volunteers like Seiler anymore, who are able to juggle firefighting and other responsibilities long-term. Seiler said he was fortunate enough to have a flexible job allowing him to man the station during the daytime, and to have a wife who held down the fort at home.

“I take my hat off to my wife Kathy because what she did all those years was very commendable,” he said. “You have to have somebody at home who is rock solid. It definitely makes it easier on you if you do.”

Seiler said spending more time at home has been a welcome change, but not running to help with a fire when he hears sirens has taken some getting used to.

“I see the calls on Pulse Point, and you can still see what’s going on, but not responding is definitely strange for me,” he said.

Seiler is still invited to MAFD social events as an honorary member, and on April 2 was honored for his years of service during the district’s annual awards banquet. 

His son, Dean Seiler, was also among firefighters recognized that night with the Chief’s Award.

Previous Article

Old-world goodies – Silverton Hills farm raises, preserves chestnut trees

Next Article

Little Monarchs – Silverton author’s unusual book tour includes family

You might be interested in …

City of Mt. Angel

Mount Angel to start chlorinating water

By Stephen Floyd The City of Mount Angel plans to chlorinate its water supply after being directed by the Oregon Health Authority to reduce the presence of potentially harmful microbes. On Oct. 17, OHA sent a letter to the city after tests revealed a high number of coliforms, which are bacteria commonly found in human and animal intestines. Because the […]

Datebook: January 2023

Frequent Addresses Mt. Angel Public Library, 290 E Charles St. Silverton High, 1456 Pine St., Silverton Silverton Senior Center, 115 Westfield 50 & older. 503-873-3093 Silver Creek Fellowship, 822 NE Industrial Way, Silverton Silver Falls Library, 410 S Water St. Weekly Events Monday SACA Food Pantry, 9 a.m. – noon, SACA, 421 S Water St., Silverton. Repeats Thursdays. 503-873-3446, silvertonareacommunityaid.org Senior Exercise […]

Scouting together: Boys and girls explore useful skills, service

By Jay Shenai Nicole Dennis is a “Timberwolf” leader with a scouting organization known as the Baden-Powell Service Association, or BPSA for short. She makes time for scouting for herself and her eight-year-old daughter Reece, in between running her own sales business and waiting tables at restaurants, because of the importance to her of experiencing the outdoors. “I enjoy the […]