Hi Folks!! My name is Dean Elliott, some of you know me and some of you don't. You know, it seems as though I've been associated with the Rural fire board since the day Methuselah was learning to shave, and, uh, well, maybe not that long, but a long, long time anyway.
A lot of water has run under the bridge in our struggle to keep viable fire protection available for the citizens of our communities, and many things have happened. We've had scary times, concerned times and a lot of in-between times.
Scary? Well, Betty and I used to be Union Oil distributors for this area, we had the bulk plant where Iron Triangle is now. We had been to a sales meeting in Bend and were in Dayville, on our way home, when we heard on the radio, that there was a fire in John Day, and two fire fighters had been hurt and sent to the hospital. Our two boys. Rick and Wayne were on the fire dept. No names were given and that made the trip from Dayville to John Day a very long trip indeed. When we got to town we found, that Wayne and Rick were indeed the two fire fighters that had been hospitalized. Scary? Yes, and scary continues to happen, because there is a little bit of a different kind of scary happening
right now and the resulting concern is rearing it's ugly head all over the place.
The current fire station that stores our fire trucks and associated equipment was built in the year 1953. Stan Phillips was fire chief then, and the facility was constructed to hold the equipment that was applicable to that time frame. You could have housed many of the fire trucks of that day in someone's household garage. I believe the vehicles of record in John Day at that time were, a short wheel based 1938 GMC pumper, and a 1953 water tender.
Time passes. The trucks get bigger and the fire station gets older and less able to meet the needs of the current operation. We have a situation where you almost need a shoehorn to get our current trucks in our old existing building, and you still will not have room to wiggle your toes. Folks, we need a modern fire facility, plain and simple. Nothing fancy, just serviceable. When one of our current vehicles is parked in the fire station, there is hardly enough room to run your hand between the side of the vehicle and the wall. We have to be very selective about the vehicles that we acquire because the ceiling is not high enough to accommodate them. In order to even check the oil and do some service work requires the doors to be opened and the trucks pulled out into the street, which in turn, means the street has to be blocked. Plumbing problems are such that if a major problem occurs, chances are that faced with current plumbing and construction costs, repairs would be more than the whole building is worth. These are some of the problems with housing our water tender and structure vehicles. In addition, the district has two quick attack vehicles, or if you want to call them brush rigs, that are mounted on one ton chassis', that have to be stored outside all year long. No room. This means that these two vehicles are rendered useless in the time of winter because freezing weather prevents them from being charged. A new fire station would have them inside and useful. The current station was built to replace one that used to be located in the block where Sim's Electric used to be and where Subway is now. That was 60 years ago. We are not talking about an old weathered farm building that you can still get some good out of by using it to store hay. A good working fire station has to have modem criteria to be functional. The district, at that time of replacement, was faced with the same problem that we have now. OLD, DILAPIDATED AND WAY TOO SMALL.
Those are the ailments of our current fire station, OLD, DILAPIDATED AND WAY TOO SMALL. It is in a currant state of disrepair that in no way can be brought up to standards. If it were to be inspected by the state for compliance, it would not pass. What does that mean? Well, for one, we could lose our ISO rating and I'm not saying this just to scare you. It is a reality. To explain what that means, the ISO is the Insurance Service Organization and it is their ratings that the insurance companies base their insurance charges on. There are certain standards that have to be maintained to retain an acceptable rating. The citizens of the City of John Day and the Rural fire districts have
been extremely fortunate that your fire department has been able to operate in such a way that the ISO rating has been acceptable. Yes, they've done wonders, but the old saying that "wonders never cease' is not always true and that is the case here with our fire station. We have very nearly reached the end of the line. In other words, your fire department has squeezed every little bit of good out of a very old, inadequate facility.
If our ISO rate is lost and ratings go up, every home owner in the city of John Day and in the rural fire district as well as every commercial facility could be faced with increased fire insurance costs. We are to the point where we can't always face down the tiger. If, as a homeowner, or a business owner, you are concerned with paying a bit more in property taxes for fire protection, you might measure that against losing a bit more in increased insurance costs. If this happened, it would be a lot worse for the commercial locations than for residences, but not good for any of them. In 1957 the ISO rating for the City of John Day was a six. Today, it is set at four for the city and eight for the rural. It would sure be nice if we could get it lower, but we better be concerned with keeping what we have.
Another age old problem that continues to pursue virtually all volunteer fire departments is recruiting and retaining enough trained, qualified personal. It takes a certain amount of personal to maintain and operate the equipment needed to maintain a viable fire fighting facility and a new modem fire station may solve some of this problem. It may not seem so to an observer, but individuals are more inclined to become an active participant in an organization if they know it is first class and one that they can be proud to belong to and work safely in.
With a new up to date fire station, we would have a training facility that would attract new fire personal, as well as a place to house the equipment. We would have room to service and maintain the trucks without having to move them outside and block the street, Both of these entities are currently lacking. Believe me, when I say that when we get our new fire station, there will be an increase in personal and they really are needed. Also, perhaps too many people take it for granted that the fire department will always be there for them when they need it. Well, we hopefully will be. But taking it for granted, does not help produce what is needed. Along the way, we need a little help from time to
time. Right now, we need citizen support to erect your new fire station. Whether it's with money or voice or both, we need your help.
Folks, we are not blowing smoke. This is far more serious than a lot of people would like to believe. We've heard of some folk making small of the need. Well, what would you do if you needed a new roof. You would replace it. If your front door were falling off, you would fix it. If your front window were broken out, you would get a new window. This is the same thing except it is more encompassing. We have all of the above and more. But, you have a partner in all this. This is your fire station. This is your fire department, maintained to help you when in need. It belongs to you and your neighbor and your neighbor's neighbor. We are all in this together. The thing about this situation is that you don't have to go the cost by yourself. It's a shared cost by everyone.
Many people in the rural part of our fire district, have the mistaken idea that they are covered by the Oregon Dept. of Forestry because they pay a fire control tax on the property they occupy.
Folks, that ODF contribution is not for your structure coverage, it is for the area around your home and buildings. Their firefighters are not trained or equipped for structure fires, so, your Rural fire department has to be able to respond in a timely manner in the behalf of your home or buildings. It is essential therefore, that you have a fire department that is available with the proper took for the job. A new fire station properly housed and in a more easily accessible location would help immeasurably in the response time. Don't get me wrong, we work with the ODF fire teams, and always will, but structure fires are not their responsibility, it is the John Day/Rural fire district's responsibility and the district needs a qualified fire protection facility. If nothing is done, the future could very well hold that you will have no serviceable response facility.
The JOHN DAY/RURAL fire dept. is a coop-operation between the city of John Day and Rural fire district in order to provide the optimum protection for the property owners in the districts. The Rural district provides a structure fire truck and two brush trucks and assorted equipment.
The city of John Day furnishes the fire fighters, fire trucks and the storage facility (fire station) for the equipment. This is all done under an agreement between the two entities Both pay a portion of the cost in this way. There is no free hand out for either entity as some people have mistakenly thought.
Something else that needs to be considered, the fire departments of Canyon City, Mt. Vernon, Prairie City, and the JohnDay/Rural all have Mutual Aid agreements with one another. In our sparsely settled and strung out communities, it is essential that we have this back up availability in case of a large conflagration that has to be attacked. In order to expect them to back us up, we need to be prepared to back them up.
This means that we need to quickly respond to a requested need for help. This means we have to be amply prepared for response and be properly equipped. An adequate fire station, being one of these responsibilities.
Some of the residents need to be informed, because they may not know, that a major step has already been taken in regard to a new facility. The old A&W drive in property, located on South Canyon Blvd., has been purchased from Stella Lang as the location for the new fire station. This is a super, super location for a new facility. It has easy access to highway 395, and plenty of room for fire Department training activity, truck service and any other fire department needs. It will solve a multitude of problems. We are extremely fortunate and excited that this property was available and was able to be secured. What we need now to make it productive, is new fire station. A new home for the districts fire equipment is essential and will benefit every resident. There have been comments of building a so called Taj Mahal. Believe me, this is the furthest thing from our minds. A serviceable facility is all we want or need. No better or no worse than any other community that has a need for proper fire protection.
It seems as though the first thing that comes to a lot of people's mind is to cut spending as a way to solve all problems. Well, that has been done over and over and you as partners in this fire station problem cannot continue to get by with what you have. The bone has been reached.
At the request of the fire station steering committee, an engineering firm has drawn up some preliminary building plans to conform to the property for it's intended use. The result is that it is perfect. So, with preliminary plans on board, we are ready to move ahead. These plans can be viewed by anyone at any of our announced public meetings.
Folks, you also need to know that an effort is being made to secure funding for the program, which during these trying economic times is pretty tough.
To be forthright and honest with you we are exploring grants, foundation money and philanthropic funds and finding that they are not as readily available as in the past. We are finding that there will not be a 100% funding in any case and that any one of the organizations that deal in funding entities such as our fire station, will require that some part of that funding come from the benefactors themselves. At one time there was a government supported, program that would finance the fire station needs in a given community. Some of us thought that that program was still in existence and was being counted on for help with our problem. It is not there anymore. It's gone. All the
foregoing probably will mean that at some time during this process, the partners in the City of John Day and the Rural fire fighting districts will be asked to support us in some sort of referendum at election time. 'Taint our druthers, but it may become a necessity. We are tackling that problem at the present.
Well, here we are at the end of the end and I have saved this little tid-bit for the end of the end. Our society keeps breeding human vultures that soar around with their self serving lawyers, looking for easy marks to sue over virtually nothing. Our old, in need of replacement fire station could be one of these easy marks. An interior that has so little wiggle room in it creates a potential for an accident whenever a piece of equipment is moved. When the equipment is parked outside for maintenance or service, or has to be moved outside for training classes, we have the potential for someone to come zipping around the corner and either hitting one of our trucks, or striking one of our firefighters. And then there is the potential for a pedestrian to be walking in front of the station and falling over a fire hose and/or other obstacle, or just slipping on ice that may have formed on the apron. Fortunately it hasn't happened, but a vulture may figure a way.
Always a concern in our community, is the lack of jobs and economy. We desperately need to enhance the job opportunities in our area. Many years ago, I was Chamber President. During my term in office, I tried very hard to draw small, clean industries to our area. The first questions they would ask would be to inquire about our infrastructure. Your hospital? Your airport?. Your justice system. Your highway system regarding transportation. Yes, and your fire protection. Fire protection was very important to these people. So where is our OLD DILAPIDATED FIRE STATION? Still sticking out there like a sore thumb. A new fire station could pay for itself if it were to help bring our area
some new employment. A new fire station in its new location would certainly be impressing to new employers.
With our fire station at it's new location, we would be off the public right of way and have plenty of room in the facility to move around and avoid getting squashed or mangled. The potential liability would be slashed and might bring our community some jobs. OK? Thank you for hearing me out. This is the end of the end.
Along with all our efforts, and they have been mountainous, we need your voice of support and perhaps a donation or two. Voice of support being, "that we are on the right track." We are working hard in that direction and for heaven's sake when we have a fire station open house discussion of all this, please plan to attend.
Dean Elliott, Rural Fire board Director, on behalf of the Fire station steering committee for City of John Day and the Rural district.