When wildfires raged through more than 300,000 acres in
Washington's North Cascade Mountains last summer, 1,250
firefighters worked day and night to protect communities. One of
those brave firefighters was 39-year-old Jason Hubbard.
"I got to know the county and the people. I decided if this
route came open, I would take it and retire on it. I love
the community." – Jason Hubbard, UPS driver, firefighter and
A volunteer firefighter in the Okanogan district, Hubbard spent
12 grueling days on the fire's front lines, including five
straight days with little to no sleep.
"It started with seven or eight lightning strikes on a Friday
last August," he says. "We saw smoke coming from one, but we
couldn't find it. And two days later it just blew up."
Three days after the fires began burning, they came within a
quarter-mile of Hubbard's home in Riverside, Wash. He agreed to
let his home burn because he lived in an area where battling the
flames could compromise the firefighters' safety. He watched as
the fire climbed over a hill and approached his neighborhood.
His home was spared.
"Our fire department and neighboring fire departments kept the
fire from destroying all but three homes. For the magnitude of
the fires, it should have been a lot worse. Each tried to burn
Riverside three times from three different directions," he says.
Eventually, flames turned to simmers and Hubbard's final
firefighting shift came to a close. Weary and exhausted, he made
his way home to catch some rest.
His next shift as a UPS package car driver would begin in a few
Connecting with the community
Erika Kar, co-owner of One Cup Coffee in Mazama, Wash., got to
know Hubbard beginning in 2009 as "her UPS guy." Kar runs her
business from home, and Hubbard comes by almost daily with
When the wildfires cut off her access to the neighboring town of
Omak, Hubbard volunteered to pick up anything she might need
there as he passed through, since the only way she could reach
the town was to drive the long way around – 210 miles round
Hubbard's route covers tight-knit communities in Winthrop and
Mazama in north-central Washington. He can often be seen darting
in and out of local businesses and even running errands for
"I'm always in town anyway, so I don't have any problem running
them supplies. My customers aren't just customers; they've
become my friends," he says. "The great thing about small
communities is that you have your own route and you get to know
Kar agrees. "When Jason shows up to our house, my kids
(Sebastian and Bellamy, both 12) run out of the house to greet
him. He always has time to talk with them. He truly likes them,
and they can tell," she says.
On the Friday before Kar left with her family to Mexico for 10
months, Jason went out of his way to bid them farewell.
"Does anyone else hug their UPS guy? I sort of doubt it," Kar
A route to retirement
Although Hubbard was initially just filling in for another
driver when he was asked to deliver along the Winthrop/Mazama
route, the community has grown on him.
"I promised my customers this is the route I'll retire on," he
says. He joined UPS in 2002 and began driving two years later.
"When I filled in, I got to know the county and the people. I
decided if this route came open I would take it and retire on
it. I love the community."
Getting to know the county also helped Hubbard when he decided
to enter politics. "I know everyone, I get along with everyone,
and I do a little bit of everything," he says. After sitting in
on city council meetings, he was asked to fill a vacant
And with the encouragement of acquaintances, friends and
neighbors, he ran for mayor of Riverside. He won the election
unopposed. His term begins in 2016.
When he's not working for UPS, fighting fires, helping his
neighbors or serving as a local politician, Hubbard, the father
of three daughters, is working toward getting his pilot's
license. "Other than my kids, that's my passion," he says.