Vernonia area first responders were busy last week. In the early morning hours of Wednesday, March 25, local fire fighters from the Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District (VRFPD) fought a structure fire, a single story apartment building, with assistance from the Mist-Birkenfeld and Banks departments. Late the next night law enforcement officers were called to the scene of a fatal shooting.
Both these events were tragic, but thankfully are rare occurrences in this community. They were a stark reminder of the importance of our local first responders, who are called to help us at our worst moments.
The VRFPD just announced two ballot measures for the May 19 election that would help address several critical issues currently facing their department.
Vernonia Fire Chief Dean Smith is a long time member of the department, a dedicated volunteer firefighter and officer that the VRFPD Board of Directors thought so highly of that they promoted him to Chief several years ago. Smith is VRFPD’s only paid responder.
Smith has been expressing concerns about the need to address several issues for many years. According to Smith, call volume is increasing annually and is at an all-time high. Volunteers from the VRFPD don’t just respond to fires, they are also trained to be rescue and emergency medical responders as well, assisting with medical and other emergency assistance situations. Meanwhile community volunteerism is slowly declining, not just in fire departments across the country, but within our communities in general. The VRFPD currently only has eleven volunteers. Smith says he often has a shortage of volunteers available to handle the calls they face. State requirements for training also continue to increase and are becoming more difficult to reach and maintain.
In addition, the costs associated with the purchase, operation and maintenance for firefighting apparatus continue to increase while current equipment ages and no longer meets recommended safety standards.
The VRFPD Board of Directors, working closely with Smith, have crafted two measures they think will help address some of these concerns.
One measure would fund a paid Training Captain position. The second, a tax levy, would pay for the purchase of a brand new water tender/pumper.
Both these measures make sense for so many reasons. Read More