Tag Archives: VRFPD

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

An Opinion: Vote YES on All Three Measures

Election ballots arrived in the mail this week and local voters are being asked to make a choice on three critical ballot measures.  I am encouraging voters to support all three.

The Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District has placed two Measures on the ballot.  Measure 5-245 is a ten year bond for the purchase of a badly needed, new fire engine and would cost taxpayers 26 cents per thousand of assessed property value.  Measure 5-246 is a five year levy to fund the salary of a Training Captain to assist in the administration of the Department, mainly to organize the training of volunteers, as well as respond to calls when on duty.  This would cost taxpayers 32 cents per thousand of assessed value.

The Vernonia Fire Department currently has one paid responder, Chief Dean Smith.  According to Smith, volunteerism at the District is at an all time low and call volume is as high as it’s ever been.  State requirements for volunteer training continue to increase.  On top of that the VRFPD remains the lowest funded of any District in Columbia County.

Smith and the Vernonia Fire District are facing a perfect storm-a community that is too busy to volunteer, a limited training schedule to get the small number of volunteers they do have to meet state requirements, limited resources to fund operations and equipment,  and not enough responders to answer the larger volume of calls they are receiving.

As Smith likes to point out, he and his small band of dedicated volunteers don’t just respond to fires.  They assist the local ambulance service on EMS calls and also serve as the local rescue unit.  They handle anything from extrications from motor vehicle accidents, to providing traffic control, to  getting cats out of trees, and they have to be trained for all of them.   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

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 September 1-30

Fire 0

Emergency Medical Service 29

Hazardous Condition 4

Service Call 9

Good Intent 3

Severe Weather & Natural Disaster  0

Special Incident   1

No Emergency Found 0

False Alarm 1

Total 47

VRFPD: Salmon Festival

Thank you to all that came out this year to visit and donate to the cause. A total of $325.00 was graciously donated for the future apparatus acquisition. Although we did not have our wood raffle this year, we were happy to bring back our homemade Salmon Chowder and fresh baked artisan rolls. Next to us were our partners from Columbia County Emergency Management. They educated participants on preparedness and handed out information from mapping your neighborhood, to the components of a 72 hour kit.

VRFPD-Salmon-Fest-Booth-web

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VRFPD: Time and Money

Time and money. These are things that we all seem to lack. If one is abundant for a moment, the other is scarce. In this day and age it seems that families are cutting every penny to make ends meet. Men and women work full time and some work two jobs just to stay afloat. After making the money to pay the bills, time is spent on household duties, bonding with the kids, school activities and sports. With what time is left, some spend volunteering for local charities and community groups.

Volunteers at VRFPD are required to give up countless hours from the time they are added to the roster. These hours include basic training (145 hours), drill (every Monday night for 2.5 hours), weekend training for any outside classes, driver training (16 hours), Pumper Operator training (40 hours), First Responder training (45 hours), EMT Basic (145 hours), plus any hours spent driving out of district to attend outside training. All these, along with the requirement hours of continuing education, to remain certified.

In the past few installments of the newsletter and newspaper articles we have broached the issue of our aging fleet, which is well beyond what the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) deems appropriate. An apparatus should be moved to second position after ten years, and can be considered as a backup unit after twenty. At twenty-five it should be removed completely from service. Our first out engine is fourteen years old and our oldest responding apparatus is forty years old. It starts and runs, responds to calls and training, but is slow and only a handful of the volunteers can drive it.  It requires much more work for our volunteers than an updated machine would.

One of our officers has been tasked with reevaluating our fleet and how we use it. Can we recycle and up fit what we have to better and more efficiently serve our community? What changes can we make that will save funds in the long run? We are considering all angles and have a plan in the works.

Your current tax dollars provide upkeep for the station and grounds, an office person that keeps the bills paid and accounting in check, apparatus to put fires out, control accidents and generally help people in need. The Fire Chief is tasked with making sure that apparatus respond, personnel is trained, nobody gets injured and the public gets served.

So at this time you might ask, “What does this have to do with time and money?”

We need more volunteers so we can spread the work load more evenly, freeing up more time for those that have worked themselves ragged.  We need funding for apparatus upgrades to make our service to the community more efficient. We need funding to entertain the possibility of one more paid personnel, which will benefit our volunteers, our students, and most importantly, you.

It is our mission to figure out how to make this all possible and continue to grow, serve and protect.

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