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Fire District 5 Chief Dan Marshall to retire

TALENT — Chief Dan Marshall will retire in December after 30 years as Jackson County Fire District 5's leader. He has worked for the district for a total of 41 years.

“It’s been a great run,” Marshall says. “When I look back, I have no idea how it got to be so many years.”

Marshall became chief in 1985, when the district covered 67 square miles, the tax rate was $6.79 per $1,000 of assessed value and the total budget was about $1 million. The district now covers 115 square miles, has a $3.18 per $1,000 tax rate and operates on a $6 million budget.

Talent was annexed into the district in 1998 and Phoenix in 2008. Those additions and others in rural areas have helped spread the financial cost for district patrons, Marshall says.

“He brought people together," says Sean Curry, who served on the district’s board of directors for six years until last spring. "He had to deal with some tricky issues in the department and with the board.

"He was a builder, not someone who divided people.”

Former board member Bob Miller was a volunteer when Marshall first joined the district. He says Marshall was in the forefront of getting emergency medical technician certification for firefighters.

“He has done a very good job of growing the district,” says Miller. “He has very good esprit de corps with the guys.”

Marshall was hired as a firefighter in 1971. In 1980 he was in Saudi Arabia on a fire prevention contract, then served with the Sutherlin Fire Department before he returned to District 5 as battalion chief and training officer in 1981.

Increased emphasis on firefighter safety through training and regulations has been a constant throughout his career, says Marshall. He noted that breathing equipment was available in 1971, but not always used.

“It was a macho thing to see how much smoke you could eat and fire you could put out without a self-contained breathing apparatus,” says Marshall. Now, no building entry is made without the gear.

When wildland fires strike nearby areas, District 5 is often called in to assist, frequently forming task forces with Ashland and other rural departments. Marshall found himself a task force leader during the 1980s and 1990s.

Marshall listened to the community when an equipment levy vote failed in November 2012, and realized the district needed to tighten its financial belt a little, says Curry. The district reverted to its normal time purchase practices to acquire two new engines earlier this year to replace 1985 units.

“I think he showed strong leadership skills and I think he had strong management skills,” says Curry. “He made it clear he always supported the board and says he was three votes away from leaving.”

Construction of the district’s new headquarters building just north of Talent in 2004 was a major accomplishment during Marshall’s tenure, Curry says.

“We went from the little station to the beautiful, new station without going to the voters for a bond issue,” says Miller. “Dan’s expertise helped a lot with that.”

Marshall plans to continue to coach youth sports, to play more golf and to spend more time with his family in the coming years. But he’ll also work in the fire service field, either as a consultant or in risk management.

Board members were scheduled to discuss how to replace Marshall at their Tuesday meeting, but lacked a quorum. Proposed options include appointment from inside the district or recruitment by an outside company for both internal and external candidates.

Reach freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

Dan Marshall