An eagerness to learn and help others led Sutherlin native Ray Shoufler to a career in fighting fires.
Shoufler, 46, was recently appointed fire marshal of Douglas County Fire District No. 2 to succeed Josep Pedrola, who retired in June.
A 15-year veteran of the district, Shoufler was promoted from lieutenant.
He started his career in 1995 as a volunteer with the Sutherlin Fire Department.
Shoufler had worked in construction before taking an emergency medical technician class at Umpqua Community College. “I wanted to broaden my horizons,” he said.
“It’s one of those things when you learn something and you want to learn a little more. Before I knew it, I was a full-time student,” Shoufler said.
“I wanted to gain more experience ... and help people. That’s why most of us do it,” he said.
Shoufler began riding with a fire crew in Sutherlin and earned an associate degree in fire science from UCC. He obtained his paramedic license and was hired in Sutherlin.
He said the shift schedule at the time was appealing because he could work in construction on the side.
After a couple of years in Sutherlin, Shoufler committed his full attention to fighting fires and working for a larger department.
He began working for Fire District 2 as a firefighter and later held the ranks of engineer and lieutenant.
Shoufler said he discovered in February that Pedrola planned to retire.
“So you start thinking, ‘What are they going to do with that spot?’” he said.
He said he decided it was time to “step up and venture into the fire marshal position.”
A three-person panel, headed by Fire Chief Greg Marlar, interviewed four candidates.
Shoufler found out around May 1 he was being appointed to the position, he said.
He said he’s happy about the change, but that it’s “definitely a learning curve.”
“When you’re doing the shift work for almost 20 years, you get used to that schedule,” he said. “Now behind a desk, I do a lot of research for insurance agents and homeowners. It’s just a different part of the job.”
As fire marshal, Shoufler said he spends much of his time talking with homeowners who want to be annexed into the district, looking over building plans, conducting building inspections and heading fire investigations.
He said he’s surprised by how fast-paced the job has been so far.
“It’s different. I think once I get a little more confident, I will feel more at ease,” he said.
Pedrola said he thinks Shoufler was a well-rounded candidate for the position.
“Ray has got this personality and is well-known in the community, besides having the technical knowledge,” he said. “He will do well in the position.”
Pedrola said with Shoufler’s prior experience as a contractor, he has already established a rapport with others in construction.
He agreed there will be a learning curve but that Shoufler is in a “great position to learn.”
“It’s quite a change from fighting fires,” Pedrola said.
Shoufler said it’s been a smooth transition so far, particularly for the building aspect of his job.
The challenge, however, is becoming familiar with all of the fire codes, he said.
One piece of advice Pedrola offered Shoufler is to keep his cool.
“He has to juggle many, many pieces of the same puzzle at the same time,” Pedrola said. “My advice is to not let himself get overwhelmed.”
• Reporter Jessica Prokop can be reached at 541-957-4209 and email@example.com.