Everyday Heroes: Frank Swedenborg’s decades of service

For 36 years, Frank Swedenborg has put the city of Cannon Beach under his protection.

When Frank moved to the area, he knew he wanted to be a part of the community, and to him that meant getting involved – either as a volunteer politician, or volunteer firefighter.

He chose the latter (and, consequently, the ladder).

Now he’s the city’s volunteer Assistant Fire Chief.

“I’m proudly the oldest member of the fire department,” Swedenborg said, “and probably the longest [serving] member of the fire department.”

Indeed, Frank’s institutional knowledge is considered a blessing to other emergency responders in the area.

Cannon Beach Fire Chief Matthew Benedict said having Frank on the scene of an accident or fire helps foster a sense of calm.

“Just having him on the scene makes a lot of the stress and anxiety of the younger individuals and even myself kind of come down,” Benedict said.

Chief Benedict was also quick to praise Frank’s dedication.

“He is one of the first ones here – no matter if it’s a fire call, or an EMS call, if he’s in town – he’s even rode his bike in from downtown to get to the fire station to respond on a call,” Benedict said.

Spending 36 years as a volunteer firefighter means dealing with some terrible situations, and Frank can remember vividly some disasters he’s had to respond to.

“An exchange student was visiting during a windstorm at Ecola State Park and a tree came down, hit on top of the car and killed her,” Frank said.

Despite it being a volunteer position, Frank is no stranger to the difficulties that firefighters across the country face.

“I would miss a lot of [family] dinners; get up in the middle of a dinner and leave and be gone, or have to leave a ball game or school function or something like that,” Frank said.

More than just fighting fires

Cannon Beach residents know Frank Swedenborg as more than just the man behind the hose.

He shows up from time to time to Cheri’s Café, and not just for a cup of coffee.

The owner, Cheri Lerma, told KATU she works by herself a lot, and Frank will often come in and offer to help.

“He’s really good,” Lerma said. “He’ll come up to the counter and say ‘Who wants coffee? I don’t do fancy coffee.’ And he’ll serve them coffee.”

Lerma said Frank also helps spread cheer around Christmas.

“Frank makes sure that Santa’s picked up on time to go talk to the children. He gets [Santa] in the fire truck, it’s really good,” Lerma said.

When he’s not working as a volunteer, Frank and his family run a motel in town.

Frank said he’s about ready to retire from the volunteer firefighting business, and Chief Benedict confirms Frank’s started training some of the younger volunteers to step up once he’s gone.

“I can keep on going as long as I feel that I’m doing my fair share,” Frank said.

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