Local firefighter’s new podcast focuses on what sparks public service

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
Lebanon firefighter Jason Bolen is not only interested in putting out fires, but also finding the fire that ignites a person’s passion and using that to ignite more.
Bolen, who is the Lebanon Fire District’s fire marshal and division chief of fire and life safety, has started a weekly podcast called “The Fire Inside,” featuring local people who impact their community by “doing things of worth.”
“I think you have to have a little fire inside you to be a person who gets out there and goes the extra mile, does the volunteer work, creates the programs, pulls off the fundraisers,” he said. “Those are things that take extra fire in your belly.
“‘The Fire Inside’ is talking about what drives them to do what they do, and what keeps them going once they do what they do, how (they) maintain that.”
Since launching in May, Bolen has released seven episodes. His interviews include local Realtor Laura Gillott, Lebanon Football Coach Ty Tomlin, Mayor Paul Aziz, state Rep. Sherrie Sprenger, local brewer Matt Cowart, rising country artist Trevor Tagle and burn survivor Courtney Paul.
Bolen had been sitting on the idea for about a year, after hearing inspiring stories from friends, stories that he wanted more people to hear about, he said. The opportunity to get started came when COVID-19 forced a lot of stay-at-home time.
“You can only do so much home improvement projects, or you can only do so much yard work, only make so many loaves of banana bread or whatever,” Bolen said.
He invested in an office space and quality equipment because, he said, he wanted to put out a quality program. Bolen also had to learn about audio equipment, recording, editing, and, essentially, how to make a podcast.
It wasn’t a completely foreign concept for him, because his parents worked in radio when he was a child. Bolen said he spent hours “hanging out” in the booth at KIQY Live, where he learned about production, running the board, cueing up records, and splicing tapes.
“This is kind of a throwback to that, where you’re working with audio and you’re editing,” he said.

NEW PODCASTER Jason Bolen learns during one-on-one conversations what lights a persons’ fire.
Photos by Sarah Brown

His interviews, to date, explore how one local turned tragedy into good, the successful journey of a self-taught musician, entrepreneurship, politics, sports, realty, and how Lebanon’s mayor, Aziz, ended up in a wheelchair.
“I think you get a lot of surprise out of the individual stories, and some of the things behind the scenes,” Bolen said.
For example, Bolen has known Aziz for eight years, but never knew the story behind how he became wheelchair-bound.
“Sitting down with him and listening to that story was really cool, and it was really, I think, cathartic for him because I don’t think a lot of people ask him about that.”
Bolen noted that sometimes people have impactful stories, but they’re uncomfortable sharing it with a large group of strangers. Sharing via a podcast helps get past that obstacle.
“Because you’re one-on-one, I think people’s inhibitions are down a little bit, peoples’ guards are down, and they feel comfortable talking once you get a little rapport going and they feel comfortable sharing,” he said.
Though it would seem Bolen stays busy with his job at the fire department and as a member of the City Council – not to mention being a husband and father – he still finds time to create four podcasts a month.
“I kind of rev at a high RPM most the time, and I think that helps me get through life. I gotta stay busy and I gotta stay doing something,” he said.
“The Fire Inside” can be found on most podcast sites, including Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Deezer, and soon, Pandora. Bolen’s goal is to post one podcast every Monday.