Growing up the son of a Seymour police officer, Elijah Toborg has witnessed the value of public service on a daily basis.
He has watched his dad, Tim Toborg, dedicate his life to serving and protecting others, often putting himself in harm’s way for a complete stranger.
Spending all of that time around police officers, it would have been easy for Elijah to follow in his father’s footsteps.
But as an adult, Elijah, 21, has chosen a different path of service, one no less dangerous and requiring just as much sacrifice.
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On Thursday, Elijah stood in front of Mayor Craig Luedeman, with his right hand raised and his left hand placed on a Bible held by his parents, and repeated an oath to serve and protect the community as Seymour’s newest firefighter.
He was hired May 30. The position came open after the retirement of firefighter Tom Hoene.
“So far, it has been lots and lots of training,” Elijah said. “As long as the sun is shining, pretty much, from 8 o’clock when we check all the trucks for engine checks to just about 7 or 8 o’clock at night, I’m typically either studying roads or studying more terms or going over the trucks.”
Every time he walks through the engine bays, he opens up all of the doors on the trucks to go over what’s what.
“It’s a lot of studying,” he said.
But firefighting is a career that better suits him, Elijah said.
“I feel like all those years around the police department, I just needed something different,” he said.
Fire Chief Brad Lucas said he believes it is the first time the fire department has hired the son of a current Seymour police officer.
“We’ve had father and son firefighters and brothers, but I don’t think we’ve ever had this,” Lucas said.
But Lucas said he sees a lot of what makes a good firefighter in Elijah.
“He’s smart, strong, quick and has a good head on his shoulders and a good heart,” Lucas said.
It won’t be easy having to see and deal with fatal wrecks and fires, but Elijah said he knows he will have to face those kinds of situations.
“It’s going to be tough, but in the back of my head, I know I’m there to make someone’s life better,” he said.
Although Tim has taken jabs and barbs from his fellow police officers and from firefighters, he said he couldn’t be more proud of Elijah’s decision.
“I’ve gotten more razzing in the last six months than I have my whole career,” Tim said. “But I always knew he would go into public service, and I think this is right for him. I never doubted his decision.”
He also knows the other firefighters will be great role models for his son.
Last week, Elijah and Tim had the opportunity to respond to the same scene to work a minor wreck together.
“He handed me the broom right away,” Tim said of Elijah handing over cleanup duties. “But it was fun to see him come up there at the same time to check on the driver to see if she was OK.”
Elijah graduated from Seymour High School in 2014 and was on the football and wrestling teams. He attended Ivy Tech Community College and got his emergency medical technician’s certification and then earned an associate degree of applied science in homeland security.
He was 18 when he decided he wanted to pursue a career in firefighting. A couple months after turning 18, he joined the Redding Township Volunteer Fire Department.
The Toborgs live just a couple of miles away from the new Redding Township fire station.
“I knew I was going to go into public service, but I didn’t know what I was going to do with that,” Elijah said. “I feel like it’s human nature for everybody to help somebody. If you would see someone struggling on the side of the street, everybody most likely that has a heart, they’re going to stop.”
Elijah said he always has been one of those who stops.
“So I thought why not stop every day, and I get to do that for a living,” he said.
Tim said he is “truly blessed” with a family that lives to serve others. His daughter, Kelsey, and wife, Brenda, work in the schools. Elijah’s girlfriend, Megan Motsinger, is a nurse, and Kelsey’s husband, Seth Thompson, works for Jackson County Emergency Medical Services. Tim has been a police officer for more than 28 years.
By serving on the volunteer fire department, Elijah was able to participate in valuable training and real on-the-job experience, including helping put out fires and responding to wrecks.
“Now, I can’t get enough of it,” he said.
Another reason he said he chose firefighting instead of law enforcement is because it allows him to help people without receiving the negative backlash that police officers sometimes receive from the public.
He also is looking forward to the friendships he will have with his fellow firefighters, with whom he lives for 24-hour shifts.
“It’s a brotherhood that I’m proud to be a part of,” he said. “And I didn’t expect that so quickly. They’re already pranking me, which is fine, but I’m going to have to pull a few tricks out of my sleeve.”
Tim said he has even been known to pull a few pranks himself on firefighters in the past, including switching their shoes and filling their pillowcases with apples and oranges while they are out on a call.
The only advice he said he has for his son as he begins his career is to “never get selfish.”
“You always want to put others first and have empathy,” Tim said. “Try to put yourself in their place and see where they’re coming from.”
Name: Elijah Toborg
Occupation: Firefighter with the Seymour Fire Department
Education: Graduated from Seymour High School in 2014, received his emergency medical technician’s certification and an associate degree of applied science in homeland security from Ivy Tech Community College
Past experience: Has been a member of the Redding Township Volunteer Fire Department since he was 18
Family: Parents, Tim and Brenda Toborg; sister, Kelsey (Seth) Thompson