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New Rogue River fire chief comes from firefighting family

ROGUE RIVER — The Rogue River Fire District has a new chief, Jim Price, who emerged from a field of about 30 applicants to replace interim Chief Jim Stearns.

"My dad was a firefighter, and my uncle, both for the city of Portland," Price says. Price himself wasn't that interested as a young man, but volunteered in Clark County, Wash., in 1988 to get training as a medic, "and then just fell in love with it," he says.

"I enjoyed helping people. When I was younger, there was the adrenalin rush, of course, going on calls that are challenging. On most days, something will challenge you, and I found I was good at it."

He replaces Interim Chief Jim Stearns, who stepped in after Ben Ramsey was forced out by City Council in October 2012. The reasons for Ramsey's departure after seven years as chief was never made public.

Price, 45, has an associate's degree in fire suppression from Chemeketa Community College in Salem and a bachelor's degree in fire administration from Eastern Oregon University in La Grande.

In addition to volunteering in Clark County, he worked for West Ambulance in Roseburg and the Sutherlin Fire Department before joining the Baker City Fire Department in Eastern Oregon in 1997. He advanced to chief in Baker City in 2006, his last job before coming to Rogue River.

Stearns, who also came from Eastern Oregon and knew Price, had told him about the opening in Rogue River, and the landscape and climate of Southern Oregon appealed to Price.

For purposes of firefighting, Price's new territory covers 77 square miles — or more when other fire districts need support. The Rogue River District also provides ambulance service for 200 square miles, including the Evans Valley.

The new chief's first challenges will include recruiting more volunteers and updating the aging fleet, funded with a 10-year levy approved by voters in May.

Another challenge will be narrowing the big gap between ambulance operating costs and revenues. Unable to demand more money from Medicare or Medicaid, the district has proposed a $150 surcharge on other patients who live outside the district and don't pay taxes to support it. Jackson County must approve it.

Meanwhile, the district is also still trying to decide what to make of the Affordable Care Act. "It has left us with a lot of unknowns that still have to shake out," Price says.

Price and his wife, Lisa, have three children. He's an outdoorsman who likes fishing and bow hunting.

Residents can meet the new chief at an open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the fire station, 5474 North River Road.

Jim Price brings more than two decades of experience to his new job as chief of the Rogue River Fire District. Price will be at Saturday's open house and flu shot clinic, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the fire station, 5474 North River Road. HOWARD HUNTINGTON/Daily Courier