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Pillager woman named Minnesota Firefighter of the Year

Sandie Youngblom has a lot of heart and passion when it comes to firefighting. Youngblom--who has been on the Pillager Area Fire and Rescue team for 19 years and currently serves as captain--was named Minnesota Firefighter of the Year by the Minn...

Pillager Area Fire and Rescue firefighter and Brainerd Tanker Base manager and aviation dispatcher Sandie Youngblom watches over the aircraft Monday which are used for fighting wildfires at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport. Youngblom was named Minnesota Firefighter of the Year Saturday at the Minnesota State Fire Conference in Alexandria. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch Video
Pillager Area Fire and Rescue firefighter and Brainerd Tanker Base manager and aviation dispatcher Sandie Youngblom watches over the aircraft Monday which are used for fighting wildfires at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport. Youngblom was named Minnesota Firefighter of the Year Saturday at the Minnesota State Fire Conference in Alexandria. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch Video

Sandie Youngblom has a lot of heart and passion when it comes to firefighting.

Youngblom-who has been on the Pillager Area Fire and Rescue team for 19 years and currently serves as captain-was named Minnesota Firefighter of the Year by the Minnesota State Fire Department Association Saturday at the Minnesota State Fire Conference in Alexandria.

Youngblom was nominated for the award because of her outstanding work ethic, dedication to her community and fellow firefighters and love of fire fighting.

"I was in total shock," Youngblom said Monday during a break at her seasonal job as air tanker base manager and aviation dispatcher for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at the Brainerd Air Tanker Base. "It hasn't sunk in yet. It's kind of hard to wrap my brain around it that me, out of all these firefighters in the state of Minnesota, that I was chosen. I don't feel like I deserve it. I am in awe, I am really honored."

Youngblom became a firefighter because her husband, Tom Youngblom, is a firefighter.

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"I was tired of waiting for him to return" from fire calls, she said. When she and Tom were scheduled to go on a first date, there was a structure fire. Sandie told Tom to go and she would wait, as she didn't think it would take long.

"I mean how long does it take to put out a fire," Sandie Youngblom said with a laugh. "I waited for three hours. (Former Fire Chief Randy Lee and Les Fundine, fire chief before Lee) said, 'You are at this fire hall more than home so you should just join.'"

So she did.

"I am an adrenaline junkie," Youngblom said of her passion for firefighting. "I also like the camaraderie and hanging out with everyone at the fire department. Some people can't do this job but I can."

The biggest challenge in firefighting, Youngblom said, can be the location and getting water to the fire. She said some of the houses are "tight" and it can be tough getting the water and the fire trucks to the location. Another challenge can be getting enough firefighters to a fire call.

It's tough for her to say which fire call is most memorable to her, as all fire calls, crashes or medicals have a "certain place in my mind as each situation is different."

Sandie Youngblom said barn fires are tough as she doesn't like to see animals die, be injured or struggle to escape.

"I've been to a lot of different accidents, good ones and bad ones," Sandie Youngblom said. "Delivering a baby was one of my highlights. It was the most scariest and coolest thing I did."

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As a female firefighter, Youngblom enjoys empowering girls and young women to encourage them to do what they want, whether being a firefighter or a police officer-or anything. She said she tells girls and young women they can do anything they want as long as they have the heart and the passion to do something.

Sandie Youngblom was named Pillager Firefighter of the Year in 2016 and in 2017, which is voted on by her peers. She owns and operates Images by Sandra J., a photography business, and also is the manager of Grizzly's in Baxter.

Pillager Area Fire and Rescue Firefighter Sandie Youngblom was named Minnesota Firefighter of the Year by the Minnesota State Fire Department Association Saturday at the Minnesota State Fire Conference in Alexandria.Joey Halvorson / Her Voice file photo
Pillager Area Fire and Rescue Firefighter Sandie Youngblom was named Minnesota Firefighter of the Year by the Minnesota State Fire Department Association Saturday at the Minnesota State Fire Conference in Alexandria. Joey Halvorson / Her Voice file photo

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