Without liability insurance, the Bear Creek Community Emergency Response Team has chosen to disband. No public body stepped forward to offer coverage for the 34 volunteers.
The team's lack of insurance was discovered in November 2012 while Talent, Jackson County Fire District No. 5, Jackson County Emergency Management and others were planning for a spring exercise in flood preparedness. Talent stepped in to provide insurance during the exercise. After that, the issue languished.
"Nobody took the lead to sit down and get it worked out," said Bob McKean of Phoenix, who helped form the team in 2008.
Fire District 5 has provided space for the team's equipment and training since the team's start.
Jackson County Emergency Management was the team's activating agency, according to an email sent by team member Katherine Lehman to county Emergency Manager Mike Curry and other officials informing them of the decision to disband, which was made at an Aug. 7 meeting.
About 25 residents of Talent, Phoenix and surrounding areas took CERT training in 2008 through a city of Ashland program, then looked for an agency where they could train and store gear. The members wanted to provide emergency services in their home area.
At that time, both Talent and Fire District 5 said they didn't have personnel or funds to coordinate the volunteer organization or to apply for grants. District 5 has its own volunteer firefighter group.
Jackson County Emergency Services applied for grants that secured equipment, while District 5 provides a home site.
Talent explored continuation of insurance coverage after the exercise, but ran into difficulties and decided not to provide insurance, said Talent City Manager Tom Corrigan.
All interviewed expressed regret that the team will not continue.
"It was not my intent for them to fold," Curry said. "I wished we could have worked something out. (The district) was the logical place for them."
"They have done a good job and they have worked hard and they are trained," District 5 Fire Chief Dan Marshall said. "A lot of their equipment needs had been met."
Corrigan, a former firefighter, said the group's services would be invaluable if a Bear Creek flood threatened manufactured home parks located along the waterway.
"It's not good. You have a large group of trained volunteers you hate to lose," said Corrigan.
— Tony Boom
Read more in Tuesday's Mail Tribune.