• Fire district seeks new chief, ponders merger possibility

    Fire Districts 3 and 4 ponder the benefits of combining operations
  • SHADY COVE — Jackson County Fire District No. 4 is looking for a new fire chief and investigating the possibility of a merger with Fire District No. 3.
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  • SHADY COVE — Jackson County Fire District No. 4 is looking for a new fire chief and investigating the possibility of a merger with Fire District No. 3.
    District 4 Board Chairman Bill Littlefield said the district will be supervised for the next six months on a part-time basis by Roy Palmer, an interim fire chief provided by Emergency Services Consulting International, an organization that helps fire departments with recruitment of personnel, and suggests policies to improve operations. Littlefield said the district used the same firm when they hired Chief Bob Miller.
    Miller retired June 30 after nearly 21 years fighting fire.
    Palmer, now retired, is a veteran firefighter of 28 years, primarily with Douglas County Fire District No. 2, where he still sits on the district's board of directors. He also was fire chief with Polk County Fire District No. 1.
    Palmer will spend a maximum of 16 hours a week in Shady Cove conducting what ESCI calls a forensic evaluation.
    "I just go through everything they do, good, bad, and indifferent," Palmer said, "and give them a kind of report card that tells them what needs to be fixed and what they're doing right. I turn over every rock I can and try to give them a good look at the organization and give them a fresh start."
    Part of Palmer's consultation with the District No. 4 Board of Directors will be helping in the search for a replacement fire chief.
    The board also has asked Palmer to investigate the possibility of a merger with Fire District No. 3 to see if it would make sense and if it's even feasible.
    "In our business you are always looking for opportunities where you can be as cost effective as possible," Palmer said. "Do I know if this is the answer? No, I don't. Not until I really look at it."
    "I'd certainly be in favor of the merger if they can work out the details," said Miller. "It saves money and could streamline things."
    However, Miller said, because of the size of the area covered by both districts, if there were a merger, working out the logistics of operations would be crucial.
    Fire District 4 covers an area primarily along Highway 62 between Highway 234 and Lost Creek Lake and includes the city of Shady Cove. Fire District 3 covers a large area that includes Eagle Point, Central Point, Gold Hill, White City and rural areas surrounding those communities.
    "It's possible a battalion chief in White City might have to go to Jacksonville and while there be called up to Lost Creek Lake," he said.
    Palmer said, while working with ESCI, he recently finished a management consolidation of Pleasant Hill Fire & Rescue & the Goshen Fire District, south of Eugene.
    "We put a management team together between the two departments," he said, "so, when we were done, they had one chief and one training officer to share."
    Palmer said Fire District 4 has strong support from the community.
    "We want to make sure," he said, "we keep this just as effective and efficient as we can."
    Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@live.com.
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