Captain Thornton Brown has served his community for 31 years with the Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District.Photo courtesy Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District
Captain Thornton Brown has served his community for 31 years with the Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District.Photo courtesy Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District
Over the past three decades, countless Sisters area residents have called for aid in an emergency — and got a response from Captain Thornton Brown of the Sisters-Camp Sherman Rural Fire Protection District. As of December 1, Captain Brown will hang up his turnout gear and call it a career.

His colleagues know that he’s leaving big boots to fill.

“He’s been with the District since 1990, so his fingerprints are on a lot of this District,” said Fire Chief Roger Johnson.

Brown managed the physical facilities, from the central station to the District’s training grounds to the outlying stations in Camp Sherman and Squaw Creek Canyon Estates. And he’s helped to train countless students and volunteers.

Like most boys, Brown imagined himself as a firefighter, but he didn’t chase the career early on.

“This has been an unexpected career,” he said. “I just sort of fell into it. And I’m just so grateful to have it.”

He “fell into it” at the urging of his friend Ken Enoch, who served many years with the Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire District, including as deputy chief.

“He encouraged me to volunteer,” Brown recalled.

His first interest was in the medical side.

“I wanted to be an EMT and respond in the ambulance,” he said.

Then the firefighting side of the service caught him.

“I got in on a burn-to-learn and after that I was hooked on the fire,” he said. “That was exciting.”

Brown served as a volunteer for over three years, and then-Chief Don Mouser hired him as career staff in 1994.

Brown notes that there are volunteers and career staff in the District — and “we’re all professionals.”

Part of Brown’s work has been training volunteers and students, and he counts as the best aspects of the job “working with great people [and] helping people.”

Relationships are the key to Brown’s sense of satisfaction in his career. He extols the qualities of the people he has worked with, their “integrity and focus in their profession.

“I guess we’re all like-minded, which makes it a little more fun, too.”

Brown also values the relationships that form with members of the community, some of whom he has helped in dark hours.

He valued “just being able to put people at ease and help them with whatever issues they have… even in the midst of chaos, getting somebody to smile and say ‘It’s going to be OK.’ That’s the neatest part of the job — making a difference.”

Brown is looking forward to a bit more of a relaxed pace in retirement. He’s moving into a place on his parents’ small farm and plans to do a little bit of exploring in Oregon, some hiking and hunting.

“Get up in the morning and have a cup of coffee without having to do something, get the ball rolling — that’s going to be a transition,” he said.

Brown won’t disappear from the Fire District though. He still has some work planned on the District’s training facilities and he’s going to see that through.

“I committed to it, and I want to finish it,” he said.

That commitment is no surprise to Chief Johnson, who notes that personnel tend to stay involved with a district to which they devoted their service.

“It’s pretty special that people who have been with the District still want to be involved and contribute, and I see Thornton that way,” Chief Johnson said.

For Brown’s part, he wants the community to know how deeply he and other firefighters appreciate their support — from backing the District in building a new fire station to the expressions of thanks for the work they do.

“Most of all,” he said, “thanks for giving us the opportunity to serve them.”