The fire departments of Swisshome and Deadwood have recently accepted delivery of three pieces of equipment that will significantly improve the ability of the area’s volunteer fire departments in those towns to safeguard their citizens.
The upgraded equipment is the first tangible change in the relationship between Deadwood Creek Fire Service and the Swisshome/ Deadwood Fire Department, which should be formalized by official state and county approval of annexation between the two departments this October.
The two departments have acted independently to this point in time, but moving forward, there will be coordination of training, volunteer recruitment and retention and most importantly, on callout support.
Chief Greg Hertzbach of the Deadwood Creek Fire Service has taken the lead in handling the submission of paperwork associated with the annexation.
Hertzbach said the change to a combined “Swisshome and Upper Deadwood Creek Fire Department” should be approved at public hearings scheduled for Oct. 17 and 31.
“We have been working on the annexation process for a couple of years now. It is quite a packet of information, which includes maps and legal descriptions, current property owners and tax lot numbers. There was a lot of research that had to be done before the application could be submitted,” Hertzbach said.
The equipment received, while new to the upriver departments, came from a neighboring fire district, which sold the vehicles to the Swisshome/Deadwood Fire district for a very reasonable price.
Chief Greg Lyndsey of the Swisshome/Deadwood Fire Department said the equipment will make protecting the public easier and safer in the future.
The three new pieces of equipment, all from Junction City, are a 1,000-gallon engine, a 3,000-gallon tinder and a 4,000-gallon brush rig.
“They are new to us, but not brand new,” Lyndsey said. “They are in very good shape.”
According to Lyndsey, his connections at Junction City let him know that they were getting new equipment. Lindsey inquired on their older equipment and made an offer.
“The equipment we had still works, but it’s from 1968 and you can’t get parts for the pump if it breaks down. The engine was showing some wear and we were starting to get a few leaks,” he said. “We got all three new pieces of equipment for around $50,000, which is a great deal, probably like half price.”
The decision to purchase the Junction City equipment is just one in a series of steps that are being taken by the Upriver fire districts to become better prepared to respond to emergencies in their communities.
Other changes being implemented are designed to enhance the cooperation between Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue and what will become the combined Swisshome/Upper Deadwood Creek Fire Department.
Siuslaw Valley Chief Director Jim Langborg feels the change signifies a shift in the relationship between the Florence fire department and the surrounding areas.
“We had an area that was protected by two volunteer fire departments, but they did not have insurance protection and they were not able to collect tax dollars. What this is going to do is bring another $20,000 into their budget and they are going to get additional volunteers, so they are going to strengthen their fire departments’ budget, their personnel and their firefighters, who will now have insurance coverage when they respond to a call,” Langborg said.
Another important element of this increased cooperation between departments will be in the training offered to the upriver fire fighters, secured through a new grant obtained by Siuslaw Valley.
Lyndsey said, “Jim (Langborg) got the grant going and then added us. We will get ongoing training for six years and we also get five ‘turnouts’ a year for three years, which is very significant because new turnouts cost about $3,500.
“The support that Siuslaw Valley has been giving us is a big change from what it was in the past. We will be much better prepared to respond to emergencies here and to assist on calls in other areas.”
Danny Morgan, assistant chief of the Deadwood District, emphasized the importance of this training to the citizens he protects every day.
“With this help from Siuslaw Valley, we were able to take Emergency Responder Classes (EMR), which are not quite training for EMTs but better than just a first aid class,” Morgan said. “There were four of us from my station that took the class, so now we have licensed EMRs. So we are branching out from fire calls, and we can do more for our community than before.”
Morgan also points out the time factor involved in responding to medical emergencies.
“Previously, we would show up and tell people that the ambulance was on the way and you are looking at a half hour drive, or longer, depending on how busy they were,” he said. “Now, we can administer oxygen, take vitals and update the EMTs with accurate information and let them know what to expect.”
Langborg said, “We want to do everything we can to help them with training or equipment or nozzles. Whatever we can do to help them protect their community. Also, we may need them some day, and we want to make sure that what we got coming is solid.”
When asked to summarize the changes on the horizon for the Upriver fire departments, Lyndsey said, “This connects us all now. We were never really connected to Siuslaw Valley a whole lot because our previous administration didn’t want their help. They thought Siuslaw was trying to take us over. Now, we are working closely with Siuslaw, and Jim’s been really helpful in getting this all going.”
Lyndsey said he believes the new mutual support model envisioned by Langborg is one that will benefit not just the first responders who are risking their lives to protect the public, but also provide an improved service to their respective communities.
“Being connected to Siuslaw Valley has been big. They are our support group. They have more knowledge about fire than we do and I can call them for advice about different things,” he said. “It’s much more of a team now, not just us, but the whole valley.”
More information on the October public forums will be available soon.