3 in 4 firefighters are volunteers: 'Doing whatever you can to help'

3 in 4 firefighters are volunteers: 'Doing whatever you can to help'

PLEASANT HILL, Ore. - Every 23 seconds in the United States of America, a firefighter responds to a call. 

Three in four of them are volunteers like Mike McGuire.

"I am a sales director for a small telecom company," McGuire said.

Or Julius "Chooch" Vanis.

"I'm administrative director at Cascade Health Solutions," Vanis said.

And Dustin Smith.

"Actually I work for the Bonneville Power Administration," Smith said.

All three Pleasant Hill volunteers - all with their own personal connections to the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

"After that day, it took me about a week to realize that I needed to be back in the service," Vanis said.

Firefighters Vanis and Andrew Smith will be in Maryland this weekend for the National Fallen Firefighter Memorial.    

They'll remember the 343 fallen firefifghters of Sept. 11 and all the others in the fire service who pay the ultimate price.

"Those that died that day didn't die in vain," Smith said. "Those firefighters died doing what they do best."

It's what another volunteer calls the thin red line that links little Pleasant Hill to the FDNY.

"It's not about Pleasant Hill," said William Hall, the department's senior chaplain. "It's about the preservation of life and being willing to sacrifice."

"Just a matter of doing whatever you can to help your community," McGuire said.

Firefighers take that risk that the next fire run could be their last.

"Willing to take it, yes," Chief Ed Rowell said of the risk. "You know, if we don't take it, who will?"