The new IGA (Intergovernmental Agreement) only includes the Town of Lakeview, the Lakeview Volunteer Association, and the Lakeview Rural Fire District. Chief Morris has been talking with the other entities and the general feeling is that they would like to wait and see what happens and see if we can make this work. Jesse feels like starting with our three entities and forming an organization is a good starting point. The way the IGA is written allows for other entities to join at any time with approval from the IGC (Intergovernmental Council created by this IGA).
Morris is proposing to combine our three entities that currently work together into a more formalized, cohesive group. The following are the concerns that he believes this addresses:
- More buy-in from the volunteers. For many years the volunteers have been kept in the dark about important issues regarding the department such as budget, operating plans, staffing, equipment, etc. Volunteers are the backbone of the department, if we had to pay to staff one apparatus on a full-time basis 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, at levels prescribed by the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) and OSHA; the cost for staffing would easily exceed three million per year. The absolute minimum staffing to partially operate at any working fire is six personnel. Those six would be required 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. There are approximately 8760 hours per year, a full-time schedule is approximately 2080 hours per year for an approximate 4.22 people per year to staff one position. Multiplied out by the six personnel required that equals 25.32 personnel to staff one engine, multiplied by approximately 130k (the starting salary for a firefighter in Oregon per OSFM) per year for salary, taxes and fringe benefits equals a cost of $3,291,600.00.
- Currently we have 23 volunteers and an average response of 12 personnel per working fire. To address all the jobs that need done and operate with a minimal margin of safety 10 personnel should be the minimum personnel on any working single family home structure fire. Ideally 18 personnel are needed for a fire to fill all the positions needed and provide a better margin of safety. We have been getting closer to our ideal number both by better engagement with the volunteers as well as utilizing our mutual aid partners.
- OSHA standards to be able to fight fire requires personnel training 120 hours prior to being qualified to enter a burning building. 60 hours are required annually to maintain that certification. To move on to higher levels of qualification requires many more hours, to fight the wildland fires that we take care of more hours, and to deal with commercial and industrial exposures many more hours, to deal with the multitude of other possible emergencies many more hours. Beyond the minimum training requirements, we ask volunteers to attend meetings, host or attend prevention events, maintain apparatus, maintain facilities, and fundraise to support themselves. All of that we ask before we ask them to risk their lives in making the community a safer place.
- Jesse Morris has been in the Chief position since September of 2022. He has asked more of the volunteers than has been asked before or at least in a very long time. Morris has identified training and equipment deficiencies that have gone unattended for many years. The volunteers have donated significantly more time as a result of his increased demands on them in an endeavor to satisfy the required necessary standards. They have given more without complaint and have begun to take ownership of their own training, the equipment and the stations. He believes it is our duty to support them as they support the community. The formation of this organization gives them a voice that they haven’t had in the past and the ability to have some influence over the agency that they have given so much time and energy. It has been documented that volunteerism in the fire service has been rapidly declining over the past 10 years. There are many potential reasons for the decline, but we have few remedies. We can pay for this vital service, or we can do our best to support those that are doing it for very little.
- This organization potentially lays the groundwork for expansion to include our neighboring department and agencies. The work of dealing with emergencies demands teamwork from all of our partners, the population of the area is too small for our existing teams to operate autonomously; the more we cooperate the more successful we will be.
Efficiency is improved as more organizations work together, reducing the need for multiples of apparatus, equipment, and facilities.
- Training is more efficient and uniform. Under one organization uniform training provides the benefit of one operating picture for all responders. Operations have the potential to be faster, more efficient, and safer.
These are just a few of the potential benefits, the potential disadvantages come from lack of control. How we balance the needs of all parties involved is probably the hardest part of making an organization such as this work. If we focus on providing the best service to the citizens of this community, according to Morris, we have the right people in the right locations to make this happen.
July 31, 2023: It was the consensus of the Town Council to move forward with an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) to Provide Fire Services with Lakeview Rural Fire Services, Lakeview Volunteer Fire Department, and New Pine Creek.