By Angie McDonnell
Early morning, around 1:30 a.m., on June 24, 2017 the Martin Volunteer Fire Department responded to two bale fires within a quarter mile of each other north of Allen, SD. However, these weren’t just any bale fires, they were a very special experience and moment for one young new fire explorer, Cole O’Bryan, and his family. Cole’s very first experience in fighting fire took place that morning and without even realizing it he became the fourth generation in the O’Bryan family to become involved with volunteer fire fighting, following his great-grandpa, Dean O’Byran, grandpa, Doug O’Byran, and dad, fire chief, Chris O’Bryan.
“I pulled out hay that was burning,” Cole explains how he took part in fighting the fire, also mentioning the use of foam to keep the sprayed water from moving away from the fire. Amongst his side that morning was his dad, grandpa, and various other fire fighters. After much time of waiting, “He was pretty excited to be part of the action,” says his mom, Mikaela O’Bryan.
For recording purposes fires have to be named, so following the fire that morning Chris was asked by the BIA what he thought the two fires should be named. He responded that he didn’t know, but informed them that it was Cole’s first fire. The BIA then decided that the first fire would be named Cole 1 and the second Cole 2 in his honor.
Influenced by his dad, Cole became a fire explorer on June 23, 2017 following the approval of his application, right after his fourteenth birthday. A fire explorer differentiates from a volunteer firefighter, because they are restricted in what they are allowed to do. The program is run through the Boy Scouts of America, allowing those who are ages fourteen to eighteen to become involved after their application is approved. Being a part of the program allows fire explorers to participate in real-world experiences, develop character and leadership skills, and prepare themselves for a career in fire fighting. If anyone is interested in becoming one applications are available at the MVFD.
Dean served as a volunteer fire fighter in the surrounding areas of Sharp’s Corner, along with other ranchers and volunteers. With financial support they were able to get a fire truck and put up a building to protect it. Serving and supporting fire fighting for about twenty years, “He knew what he was doing,” according to his son, Doug. Dean passed away in July of 2015.
Doug became a MVFD firefighter, after turning twenty-one, in September of 1978. He served as fire chief from 2003 to 2008. He comments on watching Cole experience the life as a firefighter, “It reminds me of Chris.” Cole has also been fortunate enough to wear Doug’s original bunker gear, after being passed down to and from Chris.
Chris, also influenced by his dad, Doug, became a fire explorer at the age of fourteen, being one of the first Martin fire explorers and since then has continued to volunteer his time protecting his community and surrounding areas. He served as assistant MVFD fire chief under Doug from January 2007 to January 2009 when he became the fire chief. He continues to serve in the position today. “I was happy he was excited about it. I enjoy it and it’s nice to have your kid do what you do,” comments Chris on Cole’s experience.
Cole is in the process of getting all of his own gear put together and plans on continuing to be involved with the MVFD. He has already attended and fought several other fires, as the department has been very busy. Cole finds fighting fire very intriguing and has no fear, as he is aware of what has and can happen. “You learn things as you go, everybody has to listen to each other,” says Cole.