Cascade Locks seeks to form fire district


News staff writer

May 31, 2006

Cascade Locks City Council pursues its plans to form a fire district with its request going before the Hood River County Commissioners June 5.

They should officially set a public hearing in July for the proposed levy, which would be scheduled for the Nov. 2 general election.

“Before, small or rural towns could get by with volunteers,” said city manager Bob Willoughby, as to why Cascade Locks has not had a fire district before now.

The city is asking for $1 per $1,000 property value with the levy, with the boundaries of the fire district matching the city. Cascade Locks faces a shortfall of $52,002 this year to meet the needed budget.

Forming the fire district relates to the operation of services and is separate from the proposal to build a new fire hall. The city is proposing paying for that by selling the city-owned property and grants.

The city bought a one-acre site for the future fire hall from the county for $96,000 three months ago. It is east of the Oregon Department of Transportation maintenance yard along Main Street.

Currently the city has one paid employee, fire chief/paramedic Jeff Pricher, to respond 24/7 to all emergencies. While he has the support of 12 volunteers, many of them work out of the area during the day, leaving Pricher and a public works employee the only ones available to respond.

That includes serving Cascade Locks’ needs but also the region assigned by the Oregon Health Division.

“We respond all the way to Multnomah Falls and to the other end to Viento State Park,” Pricher said. “That is our ambulance service district.”

“Therein lies the issue of operating a fire and ambulance district over a large area with a small population,” said Willoughby. “If we don’t fill the gap, there will be a big hole.”

The department covers fire and ambulance calls now with an aging fleet of equipment. On a tour of the fire hall, Pricher gestures at the cracks and strains marking the 1956 cinder block structure as well as its stressed equipment.

“We have a 33-year-old fire engine with an engine older than me,” said Pricher.

If something else breaks, the city does not have money to fix it.

An example is the engine lying on cardboard panels on the floor. The engine burned up in December. Someone donated the replacement and someone else is donating labor to install it.

“If this levy does not pass, we probably won’t be able to continue the ambulance service,” Willoughby said. “We literally cannot do that with just volunteers. We have no tax base for fire and ambulance, just one general fund for the city that pays for everything.”

In 2005, 70 percent of the fire department’s calls were for rescue and emergency medical service.

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Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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