In the wake of an active fire season in Oregon, a grassroots group is calling for the consolidation of the Central Curry County fire departments.
Under the proposal, five fire departments in Central Curry County: Gold Beach, Ophir, Cedar Valley, Agness and Pistol River would be consolidated to just one department, which would be headed from Gold Beach, however, those areas would maintain their stations. The proposal was brought before the board of commissioners at a workshop meeting last Wednesday.
Tyson Krieger, fire chief of the Gold Beach Fire Department, spoke on behalf of the proposal. He said there would be many advantages to a consolidation, including the pooling of equipment and funds under one department.
“If we are able to get together and pool our resources, and put the parts and pieces where they need to be, use the finances where they need to be, we are going to be a lot better off and better able to serve our community,” said Krieger.
Additionally, a consolidation would mean increased odds for federal funding in the form of grants, said Krieger. Those grant applications determine a fire district’s needs based on its population, number of structures and square mileage. Extra funding is important, especially when each set of a fire coat and pants costs between $2,800 and 3,500, plus the cost of fire hoses, nozzles, engine upkeep and more.
Kreiger added that many of the departments in the remote areas of the county are currently hard up for resources.
Court Boice, chairman of the board of commissioners, said he would back the move to consolidate, but ultimately the decision would be left to the voters.
“I really picked up to how this can save money. I think that’s going to be one of the biggest tasks, to let the public know how this can really be a savings. Anytime you have savings, then you are operating more efficiently,” said Boice.
Vice Chair John Herzog and Commissioner Chris Paasch said they were also in favor of the move.
However, County Clerk Renee Kolen said she was concerned about a large consolidation like this being able to meet necessary county deadlines in order for it to be on the ballot in the upcoming November election.
Paasch responded to Kolen’s concern.
“We haven’t come up with any dates on when it should be on a ballot or anything. This is just to start a conversation,” he said. “Let chief Krieger and any of the other chiefs in the county know I want to do all I can, if there’s something I can do from my office to help push this along...let me know and I will do it.”
Now, the consolidation will be discussed with fire chiefs at the other departments in Central Curry, who would become battalion chiefs if the proposal was adopted. Krieger said he did not know whether there would be push back from the other departments.