ECFR fills new firefighter positions

Chief says additions will allow for quicker response

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The first of five new firefighters who will be hired by East County Fire and Rescue during the next seven months will arrive for his first day of work next week.

Wes Long, a former ECFR fire captain, will return to his position on Nov. 15. In addition, coming on board in early December will be firefighter/IV technicians Brad Delano and Dane Hammond. The men both currently work for the Camas Fire Department, but their positions will no longer be funded as of Dec. 3.

The firefighter/IV technicians were originally hired by Camas as part of an agreement with East County Fire and Rescue. This contract approved in December 2008 stipulated that with levy lid lift funds approved by voters in February 2008, ECFR would pay for Camas to hire five firefighters. Those individuals would respond from two ECFR stations — Orchard Hills on 39th Street in Washougal city limits and Fern Prairie on Northeast 267th Avenue near Grove Field Airport in unincorporated Camas.

However, late last year after relations between the two entities soured, East County Fire and Rescue informed the CFD that it was giving one year notice of its intention to opt out of the agreement. ECFR officials decided that it would be better off using the levy lid lift funds to hire its own employees.

After the three new ECFR firefighters join the district by early December, two unfilled positions remain. Chief Scott Koehler said due to a reduction in property tax revenues that left the district with a $100,000 hole this year, and a $300,000 projected gap in 2011, the hiring of senior firefighters to fill those positions will be delayed until July 1, 2011.

Internal testing for those positions has already been completed, however. At mid-year, current part-time ECFR employees Danny Burch and Matt Hazlett will become full-timers.

Koehler said the five new ECFR positions will mean quicker response times in some areas of the district, which serves 10,271 residents living within a 60-square mile area of unincorporated Camas and Washougal.

ECFR provides basic life support response. The area also receives advanced life support paramedic response from the Camas Fire Department through a separate mutual-aid agreement that is funded by an emergency medical services levy approved by voters every six years for more than 30 years.

“I think the most notable changes [after hiring the additional firefighters] will be for the Mount Norway area,” the chief said.

In less than seven months, the Mount Norway station at 1808 S.E. 352nd Ave. will join the Fern Prairie station in being staffed 24-hours a day. Currently, Mount Norway is staffed 12-hours a day.

“Come July, when we’ve got a full group, that engine will get out the door within 60 seconds of a call — day or night,” Koehler said, adding that staff will then total six full-time paid employees and eight part-time paid employees, in addition to 45 trained volunteers.

“We’re excited to staff our stations and we think it’s going to have positive benefits for our customers and our organization,” he said. “We have an aggressive set of goals for next year.”

Just because the agreement with Camas ends on Dec. 3, Koehler said this does not mean the ECFR-owned Orchard Hills station will be left vacant. The district is currently in negotiations with Washougal to have the facility house an ambulance crew and fire engine. A lease agreement between the two entities will up for approval at Monday’s Washougal City Council meeting.

“Washougal and us are working to come up with some sort of joint arrangement,” Koehler said. “We’re also talking with Washougal about sharing volunteers.”