A slice of local life: Wy’East Chief Greg Borton: Here to help people

Chief Greg Borton at the Odell fire station.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea.
Chief Greg Borton at the Odell fire station.

Wy’East Fire District Chief Greg Borton wears only one firefighter’s helmet these days, but it wasn’t long ago that he wore, figuratively, two.

Borton has been in the fire service for 35 years, spending the majority of that time with the Pine Grove Rural Fire District. Nine years ago, he became fire chief of the Odell Fire District while still holding the fire chief position in Pine Grove.

For seven years, Borton had double the fire district meetings, double the budgets and double the paperwork.

“It did take a lot of time, but it went with the territory,” he said.

Two years ago, the Pine Grove and Odell fire districts merged to form what is now the Wy’East Fire District, of which Borton still serves as fire chief. And while the merger has been successful, it was initially a tough sell.

“The merger took a lot of time and energy. It was trying to convince the steadfast members of both districts that in the end, this would work out and be beneficial,” Borton said. “That was a hard sell because in Pine Grove there were many family generations in the fire department, and it was hard for them to lose that individuality.”

Part of Pine Grove’s individuality is its red fire engines; Odell’s engines are yellow. The separate districts had each planned to order a new fire engine before the merger, and those two new vehicles will be arriving within the year, Borton says—one red, one yellow.

“It’s one of the things that a medium ground had to be met, but it’s worked out good,” Borton said. “There were a lot of wild (colors) thought of, believe me.”

Eighty percent of calls received at the station are emergency medical services calls. “We have a dedicated group of emergency medical technicians and emergency responders here,” said Borton, who adds that the Wy’East Fire District is also supported by the Hood River and Parkdale fire departments, who send ambulances in an emergency, a practice known as mutual aid. Occasionally, people stop in at the station to ask questions, get blood pressure checked or because of a medical emergency.

“Our doors are always open,” Borton said.

The station serves the community in other ways as well — teaching CPR and first aid classes, fire prevention and education, and even checking smoke detectors on request. And, of course, there are the emergency calls.

“We respond to all fire and EMS calls, public assists and false alarms,” said Borton.

The department is continually growing. About a year ago, the station hired Lt. Tiffany Peterson as a full-time EMT training officer. She also responds to calls.

Another result of growth is a need for volunteers. The fire district is always looking for new volunteers, firefighter and EMT alike, said Borton.

“Anyone can come and pick up an application and go through the process,” he said. “If they’re selected, they can become a very important part of their community.”

Borton’s duties as fire chief include an overall responsibility for the district, as well as completing budgets, ordering new equipment, and conducting fire inspections of local businesses. He works closely with Hood River Building Code officials when new buildings are built, and teaches fire prevention and education at schools and daycare centers.

Borton also serves as president chairman of the 9-1-1 User Board, which works closely with the 9-1-1 Dispatch Center. This is an elected position, chosen by a board composed of members of the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office, Hood River Police Department and the Oregon Department of Forestry.

“In this position, you get to see a lot of things happen in the community,” said Borton. “We’re there to help people. Of course we see the good and the bad of it. We can go help somebody and there’s a good outcome, and then go to another call with a bad outcome.

“All in all, it’s a rewarding job, and I wouldn’t trade it at all. I enjoy helping people, and I enjoy my volunteers and my officers. It’s a pleasure to be here and serve the community.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

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 www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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