Fire districts to share the load

Fire Chief Gary Woodson, of Central Oregon Coast Fire & Rescue District, left, and Fire Chief Thomas Sakaris, of Seal Rock Rural Fire Protection District, explained to Seal Rock’s board of directors what the intergovernmental agreement between the two districts means. (Photo by Cheri Brubaker)

SOUTH LINCOLN COUNTY — Seal Rock Rural Fire Protection District (SRRFPD) and Central Oregon Coast Fire & Rescue District (COCFRD) made formal an intergovernmental agreement they have been operating under informally to share resources, including equipment and personnel.

Central Oregon Coast Fire Chief Gary Woodson and Assistant Fire Chief Jamie Mason joined Seal Rock Fire Chief Thomas Sakaris and his board of directors at their meeting on March 12. Woodson presented copies of the agreement already executed by the COCFRD board.

“The boards set the policy,” Woodson explained at the meeting, “and Chief Sakaris and the oversight committee will administer the agreement.”

When SRRFPD board member Dustin Joll initially expressed reservations, Woodson responded that the agreement is a work in progress to be updated as necessary, and the oversight committee, with representation from each district, will work out details and specific procedures.

“We work well with our neighbors. When people call 911, they don’t care what letters are on the truck,” said Woodson.

Both Sakaris and Woodson were clear that the agreement improves service to the community, as well the safety of first responders.

“This is not a merger of the two districts,” clarified Mason. “This is a legal allowance for both agencies to share resources as if they were one for operational reasons. The master IGA basically outlines how to approach the administrative function of that resource sharing.”

Mason cited mutual training exercises and the sharing of a training officer between the districts as an example of effective use of time and resources. He added he hopes the districts might eventually share a duty officer.

The agreement, Mason said, provides guidelines and procedures for what has been previously done by agreement secured only by a handshake.

Each district remains financially responsible for their respective crews.

“During the day, we can muster a crew pretty easy,” Woodson said. “But at night, it’s a firefighter safety issue to send one person in a truck 15 miles up (Highway) 34. I’d rather have at least two people there. With us sharing resources … when they’re dispatched two of them go out the door.

The intergovernmental agreement was executed by the SRRFPD board after a unanimous vote in favor of it.

Three Seal Rock firefighters resigned at the board meeting. Paul Highfill, Lyle Beard and Mike Burt, longtime volunteers with the district, submitted letters of resignation and walked out of the meeting.

Sakaris expressed gratitude for the services of Highfill, Beard and Burt.

Dave Oliver reported that the district’s association is short on volunteers but has two people in training.

Sakaris pointed out that they are in the process of making a new hire. While he acknowledged a lack of volunteers, he expressed confidence in his district’s ability to respond to the needs of the community, as did Woodson.


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