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NOTICE: IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM THE FIRE CHIEF

If you live in Dexter Rural Fire Protection’s District I encourage you to read this. 

If you are not aware, Dexter’s Fire District includes ALL of Highway 58 from milepost 8 to milepost 20 THIS INCLUDES ALL LOWELL ADDRESSES along the Highway. This Also includes those that live along Wheeler Road from the Chevron all the way to Riverside Drive. Although your address may say Pleasant Hill, I assure you that Dexter Fire is your response agency. Your tax dollars go to Dexter Fire District and we are proud to serve you. 

We do not receive any additional funding from the Government or State. We rely solely on your local tax dollars. 

We here at Dexter Rural Fire Protection District are finding it harder and harder to keep up with the price increases that we are all feeling. We realize these are challenging times for all of us and this is not going to be an easy fix by any means. Considering the increase in call volume and all of the other demands that we are required to meet, we will continue to try our best to keep up with the demand while providing the best level of service to you, our community. 

Calls of service in the last three years: 

2019 586 calls for service 

2020 506 calls for service 

2021 527 calls for service 

When compared to: 

2015 397 calls for service 

2010 290 calls for service 

2005 240 calls for service 

Add into consideration the wage gap between local fire districts: 

Dexter Fire District Lieutenant/EMT-I (Training Officer) $33,500.00 

Dexter Fire District Firefighter/EMT $ 26,500.00 

Neighboring Fire Districts: 

Neighboring Fire District #1 $43,000 for Firefighter/Officer and $49,000 for Firefighter/Training Officer

Neighboring Fire District #2 $42,000, shift Captain base of $48,000 and Division Chief $60,000 with a proposed increase from $42,000 to $50,000 in the next year for line staff. 

This wage discrepancy does NOT necessarily reflect the workload, call volume or commitment of staff. 

One agency with two fire districts is running 1,000+ calls a year while another fire district is running approx. 390 calls a year. 

Staffing: 

While we are so grateful and proud of our volunteer/reserve firefighters, they make up only a small percentage of actual coverage hours and response in our Fire District (not including resident firefighters that typically go to school while living at the fire station in order to help with coverage). On a typical day, 3 out of 4 Firefighters are paid to be here. 

Taking into account that volunteerism across the country is in steady if not rapid decline, we are well aware that something needs to change. None of the agencies I have mentioned including our own have “at home volunteers” for the most part (if you want to be technical maybe 1 or 2 will respond from home to a structure fire from one agency listed but I would counter that is no longer the standard). The days of your neighbor jumping out of bed or responding from home are more or less over in our area. Typically what you have at the Firehouse is what you get. 

This is not just a volunteer issue. I spoke with a vice president of IAFF local 851 (Firefighters Union) and I was told that they are facing many of the same challenges in the city that we are facing in the rural combination departments (both paid and volunteer staff). They also have wage discrepancies with similar sized organizations, staffing level challenges, increased call volume, budget cuts and restraints as well as the challenge of finding and retaining good quality candidates that can perform the job. 

“The Cost of doing business” 

Did you know that a refurbished X-series Zoll costs $20,000.00? This is a vital piece of medical equipment in the event of cardiac arrest and monitoring all patients. Our current model is becoming obsolete and companies will soon no longer be providing maintenance on them. This is more or less forcing us to upgrade and buy this product. 

Our SCBA’s that we use to breathe air in IDLH (Immediately dangerous to life or health environments)which are used inside structure fires and often outside of structure fires, as well as during Haz-Mat incidents will soon be outdated and no longer serviceable. These cost approx. $8,400.00 for one pack, bottle, mask and spare air bottle. This does NOT include a special RIT pack to help in the event of a firefighter having an emergency. We need this equipment in order to “safely” and effectively work interior operations in the event of a structure fire. With the price along with the amount we need on our apparatus, backups and for training purposes this is yet another expensive piece of equipment we desperately need but cannot afford at the moment.

I have and will continue to reduce our fleet by eliminating apparatus and/or specialized apparatus that we truly don’t need, and quite honestly cannot typically staff. While at the moment we have three command rigs (typically we only have two) we will be getting rid of one in the coming months due to the high mileage with over 250k miles on it, it is no longer cost effective to maintain. 

If anyone can explain to me why we need three Fire Engines at our station when we can typically only staff one I am all ears. One of our Engines was out of service for 6 months partially due to “parts are hard to get”. We just received this Fire Engine back from the shop yesterday and we will place it back in service for the time being but obviously we do not need this apparatus. We have managed just fine with our first out Fire Engine and our reserve Engine. The plan is to sell it and put that money towards future apparatus, as our Fire Engines are nearing the 20 year mark and will need to be replaced in the next few years. 

Speaking of apparatus: with an 8-14% increase from all manufactures that started Jan 1,2022 (depending on the manufacturer) along with the fact that neighboring Fire districts recently purchased new Fire Engines ranging in price between $364,000.00-$600,000.00 (price difference reflects the type of Engine, manufacturer and specs) we will be looking at that major expenditure, and will do everything in good faith to meet the best interest of the Fire District and our community’s needs. 

While we have had some setbacks with a “$15,000.00 Generator” that in reality cost $44,367.00, or more recently replacing a “large home” HVAC system that kept breaking down costing thousands of dollars in repairs partially due to the fact that it could not keep up with our building size -replacing it with a more efficient and cost effective and correct industrial one. Our “30 year roof” that lasted about 13 years due to leaks and water damage will need to be replaced in February at a cost of $57,000.00 due to leaks and water damage. 

Since I took over as the Fire Chief 4 years ago I have tried my best to spend your tax dollars wisely. Some of the smaller changes I made include putting your tax dollars into an LGIP (Lane Government Investment Pool) account where it makes about 1.5-3% interest, depending on a few factors, instead of leaving it all in our standard bank account where it made about 0.1% interest; something that was past practice. 

As trivial as it may sound, by putting thermostat covers over our thermostat controls we saved an average of $300 a month 

Not to mention adding motion lights to the majority of our building that turns off when not in use saves the district money. 

I have also changed our auto-aid/mutual-aid agreement with a Fire Department that from my perspective took advantage of our agreement (not necessarily through malicious means, rather a lack of vision, poor budgeting and a lack of planning on their part). While this particular incident is too complicated and would require a more in-depth explanation, the reality is the fuel bill along with the wear and tear on our apparatus, the amount of time away from our district, and considering the amount of calls that we were responding to were at what I considered to be an abusive level. Changing this mutual aid agreement did have a cost savings to our Fire District as well. 

Grants: By applying for grants and receiving a percentage of those grants we have also saved the district money.  While we cannot solely rely on grants alone to see us through our own challenges, it definitely helps when we are awarded these funds. 

Recent grants awarded and what we purchased with them include: 

Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office: Multi-Gas detector, containment pool, drain seal. Walmart: Wildland equipment 

SDAOSafety and Security Grant 

Jerry's Home Improvement: Training props and station supplies 

If you have any further questions, comments or concerns please feel free to email us at dexterfire21@gmail.com “attn: Chief update 2022” and we will try to answer you as soon as we can. 

Fire Chief 

Matt Peterson