Camas, ECFR leaders OK inter-local agreement

CWFD Chief Nick Swinhart will add ECFR oversight to his duties

Nick Swinhart

Camas-Washougal Fire Chief Nick Swinhart will begin overseeing East County Fire and Rescue as of Nov. 1.

A one-year interlocal agreement was approved unanimously by the East County Fire and Rescue Commission Sept. 28, and the Camas City Council on Monday.

“I think this is a really good move for the fire department and the city,” said ECFR Interim Chief Al Gillespie during an interview on Tuesday. “We worked very hard to make this happen for the public.”

According to the agreement, the CWFD chief will provide services to ECFR including budget development, financial management, personnel management and collective bargaining, in addition to overseeing the fire services provided to the public by ECFR.

The contract calls for the CWFD chief to dedicate 37.5 hours per month to ECFR, at a total cost of $3,000.

“This has been a fairly long-time coming, but not as long as some of the events we’ve tried to work on,” said Councilman Greg Anderson, a member of several of the city’s emergency services related boards and committees. “I am happy to have this come [to the council] and get signed and get rolling.”

The agreement states that an ECFR deputy chief will work under the direction of the CWFD chief to be responsible for daily operations, employee assignments and job duties, staffing, station apparatus assignments, allocation of resources and implementation of policies and procedures.

Mike Carnes will be promoted from ECFR captain to the full-time administrative role of deputy fire chief. Carnes, 56, has been with the district since 1997 when he started as a volunteer. Gillespie said Carnes will step into this new role Nov. 1.

Gillespie has served as the interim fire chief since November 2015. His current contract with the district continues through Oct. 31. He works up to 36 hours per month, for a flat fee of $10,000 per month.

After the City Council OK’d the contract, Mayor Scott Higgins thanked all who were involved in its creation, including the elected leadership and staff from both entities.

“I think this is something that the community envisioned — that there were ways we could work more efficiently with our partners — for a very long time,” he said. “This interlocal agreement that council just approved, does just that. I think it’s a big step that looks at our future more collaboratively and provides a better service to our entire region. I am happy to see that happen today.”

In other ECFR news, the district recently sold one of its fire stations.

The residential building that previously housed Bear Prairie Fire Station 96 sold in September for $470,000.

A portion of the $440,000 in proceeds the district received will go toward paying off the $142,569 balance due on a radio system that Clark County required the district to purchase back in 2015. The district financed the purchase through the county, using an interest bearing loan.

The remaining $297,500 will be placed in the apparatus and building reserve funds for future use.

The ECFR Commission decided on Jan. 19 to close Station 96 and sell the 5-acre property that is the site of a 2,949 square foot house built in 1983. The decision to liquidate the rural station was based on the number of calls that station received, and the district’s financial circumstances.

Purchased in 2008 for $525,000, the building housed a volunteer firefighter and his family.

Since the time of Station 96’s closure, calls from the area have been handled by crews at Mount Norway Station 94, about four miles away. It is staffed 24-hours a day.

ECFR operates five fire stations, two of them staffed 24-hours a day. It has 26 volunteer firefighters, as well as nine full-time and six part-time emergency responders on staff.