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Volunteers hard to find for rural fire stations

Columbia River Fire & Rescue and Scappoose Rural Fire District push for volunteers from rural areas


by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Currently, CRFR and SFD have about 40 volunteers registered for fall training, but lack volunteers in Holbrook and Chapman stations.Columbia River Fire and Rescue and the Scappoose Rural Fire District wrapped up their Recruit Fire Academy training at the end of May and are looking for a group of volunteers to join their fall recruit academy beginning in September.

But, as the districts are discovering, recruiting volunteers from Columbia County’s rural communities is no easy task.

Jennifer Motherway, CRFR’s volunteer coordinator said both districts have about 40 volunteers on the roster at this point, but finding volunteers outside the city limits has proven to be a challenge.

“What we’re really struggling with is getting volunteers in rural areas,” she said.

Motherway said the Holbrook and Chapman stations are completely staffed by volunteers. Currently, the Holbrook station is staffed by only one volunteer firefighter and the Chapman station is staffed by about six. Ideally, both stations would be staffed by at least 10 volunteers, she said.

“In May and June, we held an open house at each of those stations, hoping to get volunteers. So far, we’re not necessarily finding anybody,” Motherway said.

She said that if a “major event” were to occur within those districts, CRFR would be forced to call in mutual aid from Portland or Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue.

“We really do rely on volunteers 100 percent of the time. The volunteers come in and help staff everything,” she said. “What I’m finding is that people are not necessarily able to commit to a fire academy. There is a low housing density in those areas and people respond based on where they live.”

Ronda Melton, finance administrator with the SRFD, said although the fire season has begun, staffing the Holbrook and Chapman stations as quickly as possible is of importance regardless of whether or not there is an elevated risk of fire. Melton said 75 percent of the calls the two rural stations receive are for ambulances.

The deadline for applications to the CRFR and SRFD fall recruit academy is July 31.

“We provide all the training and all the equipment,” Motherway said. “There are a lot of good incentives.”

CRFR and SRFD are looking for applicants who enjoy new physical and mental challenges, thrive in team environments, and have an interest in helping the community.

Those interested can find applications at www.crfr.com or www.srfd.com or stop by the fire stations in person.