Proceed with consolidation cautiously and thoughtfully

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The trial consolidation process between the Camas and Washougal fire departments that began in July is approaching the six-month mark.

To date, most of the progress reports from Fire Chiefs Nick Swinhart and Ron Schumacher have been positive. While there no doubt have been challenges, strides are being made. Overtime is down, expenses are being reduced, operations are being streamlined, and paid staff from both departments are working together more closely with success.

However, comments by at least a couple of volunteer firefighters at Washougal’s planning retreat on Saturday certainly raised some red flags about how well certain aspects of this process are really going. One current volunteer urged officials to sit down and meet with the volunteers as a group. A suggestion that should be taken seriously.

At the onset of the trial consolidation period, the ongoing role and future of the Washougal volunteers were issues discussed with some intensity and concern. While Camas has not had a volunteer force for several years, the volunteers within the Washougal fire Department play active and integral roles in its operations.

This trial consolidation effort is at a critical point. As past unsuccessful tries at consolidations and mergers between local fire departments illustrate, even efforts started with good intentions can fizzle quickly.

To resolve lingering long-term financial stability issues and maintain quality local service, the importance of the success of this current effort cannot be overstated. Camas-Washougal officials should move forward thoughtfully and cautiously.