New partnership offers many benefits

Last Wednesday was the first day of a six-month trial consolidation period between the Camas and Washougal fire departments. The day included the first combined command staff meeting with Camas and Washougal officers. The meetings will be held on a monthly basis. Pictured above (left to right) are Camas Fire Chief Nick Swinhart, Washougal Fire Chief Ron Schumacher, Camas Emergency Medical Services Capt. Cliff Free, and Camas Battalion Chief Allen Wolk.

As many of you have read in the newspaper recently, your Camas Fire Department has begun what we hope is a long standing relationship with the dedicated staff of the Washougal Fire Department.

This six-month trial consolidation will involve the cross staffing of personnel from both departments in an effort to decrease overtime and provide an even more efficient service to the residents of our communities.

The difference may not be noticed by most residents, but citizens who require our services may see faster response times with more personnel, or may realize that the personnel who are responding to their emergencies are wearing both Camas and Washougal Fire Department uniforms. Additionally, there will be times when Washougal Fire Department volunteer firefighters are working out of Camas Fire Department stations.

We at CFD welcome this new partnership with Washougal and the benefits it will bring to both departments and, most importantly, our citizens.

Paramedic services are provided to the citizens of East County Fire & Rescue, Camas and Washougal, through a decades old agreement between the three entities. Due to decreases in property assessments and continuous changes in insurance reimbursement, the funding mechanism for this service has undoubtedly struggled in the past few years.

In response to this challenge, we are undertaking an aggressive examination of ways we can decrease expenditures while at the same time working to ensure the service level we provide to our citizens is not impacted. This partnership with Washougal represents one such method.

I have spent nearly 23 years in every aspect of this business, such as wild land fire fighting, volunteer firefighter, private ambulance, fire department paramedic and now administrator. I firmly believe that the paramedic system that CFD provides to its citizens and partner agencies is the best our taxpayer’s money can buy.

One thing my experience has taught me is the importance of relationships. We will continue to strengthen existing relationships and forge new ones, as we explore ways to improve and sustain the service we provide to our communities.

As I complete my second full week at the helm of the Camas Fire Department, I would like to take a moment to thank the dedicated staff of CFD for helping my transition to this new position. Special thanks go to Interim Fire Chief Monte Brachmann for his wisdom and guidance.

Your Camas Fire Department faces some unique challenges in the near future, but if we take advantage of some amazing opportunities we have, we will be able to not only sustain our existing service, but take it to an even higher level.

I invite members of our communities to contact me at nswinhart@ci.camas.wa.us if they have questions, comments, or suggestions.

Nick Swinhart has been chief of the Camas Fire Department since July 5. He previously served as chief of the Watertown, S.D. fire department.

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