When members of the Golden Valley Fire Department met Shawn Thorud, they knew they had a hot prospect.
About three years ago, a fire broke out on Thorud’s deck in the middle of the night. While family members called the fire department, Thorud grabbed a hose from next door and got to work.
“By the time the firefighters arrived, I had it out,” Thorud said. “And I started talking to them, and they said, ‘Why aren’t you on the fire department?’ ”
Now he is. Thorud was among 12 new Golden Valley firefighters sworn in last week. At age 41, he doesn’t fit the stereotype of a firefighter recruit. But Golden Valley welcomes mature candidates and even seeks them out, said Fire Chief John Crelly.
“We have a higher success rate with folks who are older, settled down in life,” Crelly said. Younger firefighters are more likely to move as they pursue careers and families, he said.
Members of the Golden Valley department are required to live within six minutes of one of the city’s three fire stations.
“We’ve had great success recruiting more mature members, people in their 40s and 50s,” said city spokeswoman Cheryl Weiler. “Maybe it’s something they’ve always wanted to do, but they think it’s too late. We say, ‘Hell, yeah! Come on in!’ Fifty is the new 40, right?”
Like many cities, Golden Valley’s firefighters are classified as “paid on-call.” They get paid anywhere from $10 to $16 an hour when they respond to a call, but firefighting isn’t their main job. The firefighters do qualify for a partial pension after 10 years of service and a full pension after 20 years.
The occupations of the new recruits sworn in last week include engineer, construction manager and nursing student.
“These are your neighbors, the people at the desk next to you,” Weiler said. Golden Valley has about 60 firefighters altogether, and maintains a small day shift of five full-time firefighters who carry out activities like inspections and education, as well as responding to calls during normal business hours.
The hiring process for a new recruit takes about six months, Crelly said, and firefighters receive intensive training during their first two years on the job. Successful recruits, Crelly said, are those with “a strong sense of community. There’s a strong sense of duty required to pull yourself out of bed in the middle of the night,” he said with a smile. “There’s also a physical aspect to the job that a lot of people find appealing.”
Thorud fits that description. A real estate agent by day, he was born and raised in Golden Valley and lives in the house he bought from his parents. The next-door neighbor whose hose put out Thorud’s fire? It’s his grandmother.
“I really am happy to be giving back to the community I’ve been a part of for so long,” Thorud said after receiving his badge. “I look forward to serving.”