Michigan firefighters’ careers in service started as Boy Scouts

Rogers Claussen, a battalion chief with the Rochester Hills Fire Department, recently joined the National Eagle Scout Association and got the Firefighters Affinity Group decal for his helmet. That decal served as a proud statement of his earning the Eagle Scout Award in 1987. It also turned into a discussion-starter among other firefighters on his shift — a shift of 13 personnel, four of which are also Eagle Scouts.

The fire department serves the Michigan city of 70,000 people on the north side of Detroit, fielding about 8,000 calls a year. Firefighters work on 24-hour shifts, so there’s a lot of time to get to know your co-workers.

“The fire department is an extended family,” Claussen says. “There’s a fair amount of camaraderie.”

When he found out four other firefighters on his shift are also Eagles, Claussen was impressed, especially considering the percentages of Boy Scouts that reach the rank. What’s just as impressive is that all five did their Scouting in Michigan, most near Detroit. Their firefighting careers are an extension of community service they began when they were Boy Scouts.

“Scouting instills a lot of the qualities that makes a good, grounded, well-balanced person,” Claussen says.

Start of service

Claussen, a member of Troop 1616 in Royal Oak, Mich., and later Troop 1093 in Clawson, Mich., earned 27 merit badges en route to the Eagle Scout Award. He recalls especially enjoying the Fire Safety and Fingerprinting merit badges.

“Public service has always been there,” he says.

His Eagle Scout project consisted of refurbishing markers and electrical distribution boxes at Clawson’s city park.

Phil Thomas earned his Eagle award in 1998 as part of Troop 60 in Rochester Hills. For his project, he built an outhouse for a one-room schoolhouse on a historical farm the city acquired.

Nick Birchmeier got the Eagle award in 1999 with Troop 90 in New Lothrop, Mich. He sealed a parking lot and painted a map of the United States that could be used for outdoor lessons at an elementary school.

As part of Troop 125 in Rochester, Mich., Chris Ogg earned his Eagle in 2010. His project consisted of building a seating area at the city’s veterans memorial park.

In 2013, Ricky Dvorak earned the Eagle Scout Award as part of Troop 108 in Oxford, Mich. His project involved building a veterans memorial at a cemetery that included three flagpoles and marble benches.

The Eagle firefighters

The men’s backgrounds in Scouting are evident while on the job.

“I’m watching guys shovel walks and driveways when they’re not expected to,” Claussen says. “They live up to Doing a Good Turn Daily.”

About 80 percent of the calls the team responds to are medical calls. The other 20 percent usually deal with fires and hazardous materials. For someone in a medical crisis, seeing a reassuring face can be helpful.

“Scouting has helped us interact with people,” Claussen says.

The BSA’s programs can help youth interested in careers in firefighting and fire safety, with Cub Scout electives, merit badges and an Exploring program. Click here to learn more about the NESA firefighter affinity group.

About Michael Freeman 108 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is associate editor of Boys’ Life, Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines.