Fire agreement in works; Medical Center getting “emergency” makeover; Oregon timber harvest declines; wildland fire danger on the rise; Next-gen firefighters; Munsel water extension

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Automatic Aid Agreement in works for fire agencies

An agreement in the works between the Mapleton Fire District and Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue would blur the dividing line between the two agencies.  Currently, the two districts meet in the Tiernan area at about milepost 9 on Highway 126.

If approved by the Mapleton Fire District board in August, Mapleton crews would automatically respond as far as milepost 3 at Cushman, along with Siuslaw Valley.

In return, Siuslaw Valley would automatically send an engine and a water tender to structure and vegetation fires, along with a “heavy rescue” to car crashes, throughout Mapleton’s district.

Under current procedures, each agency only responds to the other’s calls if requested.  The new agreement, says Siuslaw Valley Fire Chief Jim Langborg, would make the responses automatic.

Siuslaw Valley directors approved their portion of the agreement last week.

Langborg says once Mapleton signs on, the two agencies will begin developing dispatch and training requirements.

Medical Center entry getting “Emergency Department” makeover

The lobby and entrance at Peace Harbor Medical Center is headed to a makeover along with the Emergency Department.

Officials say they want to improve the “first impression” given by the 27-year old facility by renewing the space and making it safer and more efficient for patients and staff.

By utilizing the current contractor for the Emergency Department job, they believe it can be done quickly… and most important… inexpensively.

The Emergency expansion is an 18-month, $5-million renovation and it’s expected to be completed in September or October.

By contrast, the lobby renovation would only add about $50-thousand to the overall cost.

Michele Diffenderfer with the Peace Harbor Medical Center Foundation says it will be paid for through her efforts and she’s been given a target date of September 1st to raise the money.

Diffenderfer says it can be done.  In just the past ten days she’s already been able to get commitments for about a fourth of that amount from medical staff and the hospital auxiliary.

Oregon timber harvest declines

After two years at slightly above four-billion board feet, Oregon’s timber harvest is on the decline again.  The Oregon Department of Forestry said Monday the harvest in 2015 was 3.79 billion board feet… down about eight percent from the 2014 harvest.

Brandon Kaetzel, a top economist at the department, says the decrease was largely driven by a slowdown in exports to Asia.

That slowdown snapped a two-year run in which the harvest topped 4 billion board feet. Before 2013, Oregon hadn’t hit that mark since 2006.

The average Oregon harvest of timber between 1950 and 1990 was slightly more than 8-billion board feet.  It plummeted to less than 5-billion in the 90s and, other than the minor increases in 2012 and 13, continues to fall.

The majority of Oregon forestland… about 60-percent… is federally owned.  It accounted for only about 30-percent of the timber harvest.  Private forestland is only about one-third of the acreage but accounts for nearly two-thirds of the harvest.

Munsel water extension to improve fire protection

Several different public works projects are already underway… or will start soon.  One of those is an enlargement of the water system capacity to the neighborhood at the east end of Munsel Lake Road at North Fork.  Florence Public Works Director Mike Miller:

Mike Miller – “We have a house being built out there that is under served, especially in regards to fire protection.  They have paid their fair share of the money to extend water and sewer and the city’s going to go in and actually complete the project.”

The current line is insufficient…

Mike Miller – “It’s only a two inch and so we’ll be putting in a eight inch in.  We’ll have plenty of fire capacity, we’ll have at least 1500 gallons a minute which is the standard residential requirement.”

Miller said in addition to serving the new home and the possibility of two others that could be built there, it will also provide increased water for fire protection of all homes in the immediate area.

Next-gen wildland firefighters

11 students at the Angell Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center in Lincoln County will begin training to become wildland firefighters next week.

Dan Eddy, the Fire Management Officer for the Siuslaw National Forest said it’s a “great partnership” giving students at the center “another career path to pursue”.

The students will be trained in wildland firefighting, as well as safe operation of chainsaws by forest service personnel.

Job Corps Centers across the country offer a variety of different training opportunities to youth between the ages of 16 and 24.  Many of those centers, such as Angell, near Waldport, are dedicated to wildland firefighting.

Be careful with fire!

Oregonians are being encouraged to do all that they can to prevent careless wildfires.  It’s everyone’s responsibility according to fire officials.

Fire danger is on the rise, as evidenced this weekend by the large grass and range fire burning in Gilliam County in Northeast Oregon.  Already this year there have been 19 large wildfires in the state… 15 of those were human caused.

Kevin Martin with the U.S. Forest Service is the director of Fire and Aviation for the Pacific Northwest.  He said anyone found responsible for starting a fire… even if it’s an accident… can be held responsible for fire suppression costs.