Vernonia citizens will have a chance to vote on two measures in the upcoming election that would support the Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District. The Fire District has placed Measure 5-245, a ten year bond for the purchase of a new fire engine, and Measure 5-246, a five year levy to fund a training officer for the district. According to Vernonia Fire Chief Dean Smith, both Measures are vital for helping local fire fighters continue to provide quality service to the community. The following is an excerpt from a recent conversation Vernonia’s Voice had with Chief Smith.
Vernonia’s Voice: Why are both these Measures so important for the Fire District?
Chief Smith: The operating levy, Measure 5-264, is important because I’m the only paid responder we have. I’m also paid to be an administrator. The duties that are required within a fire district and the tasks that need to be managed are always increasing and so is the amount of training our volunteers are required to receive and stay current on. There is always something else that needs to be taken care of.
Our District is responding to a record number of calls now and our volunteer levels have dropped to as low as I’ve ever seen them. We’re at a point where our district needs to have another body in here that can take some of these tasks that need to be managed.
What we need is a Training Captain that can be dedicated to oversight and look at all the aspects of our training program and make sure we’re covering and tracking all the certification for our volunteers and keeping their files up to date. We need to make sure we’re meeting the needs and addressing the aspirations of our volunteers, so that we can see where they want to go and assist them in getting there. It’s become imperative—we need another body here. We can’t continue giving the level of service if we don’t.
Measure 5-245 is a bond for equipment. We recently purchased a used engine from Banks for a heck of a deal. The last bond we put out was in 2000 and it matured and was paid off in 2010. In reality the District should have immediately put out another bond.
VV: Why is it so important to have a paid Training Officer?
CS: We’ve used volunteers in that role for a long time. The average time span that a volunteer lasts in that role is about three years. And every training officer that we’ve had since I’ve been here, has not only stepped down from training, they’ve resigned from the department completely. They get so burned out because there is so much extra work. And the worst part is, the people we give the training responsibility to are usually some of our best volunteers and then we end up losing them. They’re going to their regular jobs for forty hours a week and then they are volunteering here and then putting in all this extra work. Read More