Tag Archives: Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District

Supporting Local Fire Protection: A Conversation with Chief Dean Smith

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? 

FireMeasures-ConversationDeanSmith-webChief 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

May 19 Elections Give Voters Some Interesting Choices

The upcoming May 19 election will offer local voters the chance to elect representatives to the Vernonia School Board, The Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District, the Mist-Birkenfeld Fire District and the Columbia County 9-1-1 Communications District.  There are also three ballot Measures  for voters consideration.

Ballot Measure 5-243 is a county wide measure that would increase the Natural Resources Depletion Fee  by thirty-five cents ($.35) per ton to a total of fifty cents ($.50) per ton. The current fee primarily provides revenue for county roads. The increase is intended to cover the costs to the infrastructure of Columbia County that result from mining activities. The additional fees would be used as follows:

• Ten cents ($.10) for road improvements and maintenance of existing roads and bridges.

• Twenty-five cents ($.25) for Columbia County Rider Transportation.

The initiative requires that none of the proposed increased funds could be used for other county general fund purposes.

Measures 5-245 and 5-246 would raise funds for the Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District.  Measure 5-245 is a ten year bond for the purchase of fire apparatus and is estimated to cost taxpayers an average of $0.2621 per thousand of assessed value each year. For the owner of a home or property owner, the estimated annual average cost would be $26.21 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value. Measure 5-246 is a five year levy which would fund  the salary and benefits package of a Training Captain. This person would be responsible for the District’s training program and responding to incidents.  This measure is estimated to cost taxpayers an average of $0.32 per thousand of assessed value each year. For the owner of a home or property the estimated annual average cost would be $32 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value. Read More

An Opinion: Firefighters Need Us to Respond

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

Vernonia Fire District Places Two Measures on May Ballot

The Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District has filed two ballot measures with the Columbia County Elections Office to be placed on the May 19, 2015 election ballot.

One measure is  a five year levy for Emergency Services Training and Operations.  This measure would provide funding for the District to hire a Training Captain who would be responsible for operation of  the District training program.  The Training Captain would also respond to incidents during their work shift, thereby increasing daytime response personnel within the District.  This levy would cost taxpayers an estimated $0.32 per thousand of assessed value each year.  The estimated annual average cost would be $32 per $100,000 of taxable assessed value.

The second measure is  a General Obligation Bond and would raise funds to purchase and upgrade fire apparatus and equipment.  The bonds would mature no later than ten years from date of issuance and is estimated to cost taxpayers an average of $0.2621 per thousand of assessed value each year.  The estimated annual average cost for property owners would be $26.21 per $100,000 of assessed value.

Fire Chief Dean Smith is the District’s administrator and only paid responder; all other emergency responders are volunteers.  Smith says his administrative duties are continually expanding and says the District is reaching a breaking point. He says the mandatory training requirements and time commitment for volunteers,  the continually increasing volume of calls the District receives, and the  outside priorities like family, work and school are creating a perfect storm that makes volunteer recruitment and retention extremely difficult.  With only eleven current volunteers, a number Smith says is as low as he’s ever seen it, Smith says the ability of the District to continue to provide the current level of service is impossible.

Volunteers from the Vernonia Fire District responded  to a structure fire on March 25.  Firefighters from Mist-Birkenfeld and Banks assisted with the call.

Volunteers from the Vernonia Fire District responded
to a structure fire on March 25. Firefighters from Mist-Birkenfeld and Banks assisted with the call.

“We’re at a point where the District has to have another body here that can take some of these tasks and manage them with oversight from myself,” explains Smith. “It’s become imperative.  We can’t continue to give the same level of service if we don’t.”

As an example, Smith noted that during the recent structure fire in town, Vernonia was only able to respond with one engine and only had one officer, two firefighters and one cadet available to respond.

“If we can get someone dedicated to the Training Captain position we can create a more stable and sustainable training program, and I believe we can only grow,”  says Smith.

Smith addressed the bond measure for the apparatus purchase,  saying the District’s equipment is mostly out of date and does not meet current safety standards or recommendations.  The bond would allow the District to purchase a brand new water tender/pumper  to replace the thirty-five year old, outdated one they currently are using.  Smith says the District last went out for a bond in 2000 which sunset in 2010 and used those funds to purchase their current first-out engine.  The recent purchase of a twenty year old engine from the Banks Fire District also provided an upgrade.   Read More

Early Morning Fire Destroys Duplex

A fire destroyed an apartment at the corner of A street and Washington Avenue in Vernonia in the early morning hours of Wednesday March 25.

Fire1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Firefighters from the Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District, the Banks Fire District and the Mist-Birkenfeld Fire District all responded and kept the blaze from spreading to nearby homes.

Fire3

Fire2

Neighbors reporting hearing a loud “explosion” around 2:30 AM.  Witnesses said flames reached over thirty feet into the air when the fire was fully engaged.Fire 6Fire4

Fire7

NOTICE OF MEASURE ELECTION-Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District General Obligation Bond.

NOTICE OF MEASURE ELECTION AND RECEIPT OF BALLOT TITLE Filed in the Office of County Clerk 3/18/2015

Notice is hereby given that a ballot title for a measure referred by Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District has been filed with the Columbia County Clerk on March 18, 2015.

The ballot title caption is Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District General Obligation Bond.

Vernonia-RFPD-GOB

Notice is hereby given that a measure election conducted by mail will be held on Tuesday, May 19 2015.

An elector may file a petition for review of this ballot title in the Columbia County Circuit Court no later than 5:00 p.m. March 31, 2015 (which is the 7th business day after receipt.) ORS 255.155

This notice is published pursuant to ORS 255.145 by Elizabeth E. Huser, Columbia County Clerk.

NOTICE OF MEASURE ELECTIONFive Year Local Option Levy for Emergency Services Training and Operations.

NOTICE OF MEASURE ELECTION AND RECEIPT OF BALLOT TITLE-AMENDED Filed in the Office of County Clerk 3/18/2015

Notice is hereby given that a ballot title for a measure referred by Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District has been filed with the Columbia County Clerk on March 18, 2015.

The ballot title caption is  Five Year Local Option Levy for Emergency Services Training and Operations.

Notice-Election-and-Receipt-VernRFPD-levy-AMENDED-Spotlight-Vernonia-website

Notice is hereby given that a measure election conducted by mail will be held on Tuesday, May 19 2015.

An elector may file a petition for review of this ballot title in the Columbia County Circuit Court no later than 5:00 p.m. March 31, 2015 (which is the 7th business day after receipt.) ORS 255.155

This notice is published pursuant to ORS 255.145 by Elizabeth E. Huser, Columbia County Clerk.

VRFPD Replaces Apparatus

District finds way to purchase used to maximize budget

The Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District (VRFPD) has a newer fire engine.

The used engine, a 1994 Freightliner FL70, was purchased from the Banks Fire District and will replace Engine  E451 as the second out engine for VRFPD, according to Chief Dean Smith.

“Replacing this old rig was a huge priority for us,” said Smith.  “We really needed to do something to upgrade our fleet.”

Jesse Harbour (left) of VRFPD and Cory Coussens of the Banks Fire District  with the new Vernonia fire engine.

Jesse Harbour (left) of VRFPD and Cory Coussens of the Banks Fire District with the new Vernonia fire engine.

VRFPD is purchasing the newer engine for $30,000.  According to Smith, the Vernonia Volunteer Firefighter’s Association has agreed to pay $10,000 towards the cost.

“Our volunteers are giving back directly to the department and the community by making this donation,” explained Smith.

A brand new comparable truck would have cost the District $450,000.

VRFPD has replaced E451 (left) with a newer 1994 engine (right).

VRFPD has replaced E451 (left) with a newer 1994 engine (right).

Smith said the Banks Fire District was looking to sell this older rig and had contacted other local departments to see if any had a need.  “They were happy to be able to assist a neighboring district,” said Smith.  According to Smith, the Banks Fire District agreed to accept payments on the $20,000 balance. Read More

Calls responded to August 1-31

Fire 3

Emergency Medical Service 34

Hazardous Condition 2

Service Call 5

Good Intent 8

Severe Weather & Natural Disaster          4

No Emergency Found 0

False Alarm 0

Total 56

Make a Disaster Preparedness Plan

Be disaster aware picture-webIt is important to make sure that the entire family is prepared and informed in the event of a disaster or emergency. You may not always be together when these events take place and should have plans for making sure you are able to contact and find one another.

The American Red Cross suggests some basic steps to make sure you remain safe:
• Meet with your family or household members.
Discuss how to prepare and respond to emergencies that are most likely to happen where you live, learn, work and play.
• Identify   responsibilities for each member of  your household and plan to work together as a team.
• If a family member is in the military, plan how you would respond if they were deployed.

Plan what to do in case you are separated during an emergency:
• Choose two places to meet:

Right outside your home in case of a sudden emergency, such as a fire.
Outside your neighborhood, in case you cannot return home or are asked to evacuate.
• Choose an out-of-area emergency contact person. It may be easier to text or call long distance if local phone lines are overloaded or out of service. Everyone should have emergency contact information in writing or saved on their cell phones. Read More