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New deputy fire chief to go high-tech

A longtime ally of Jackson County Fire District No. 3 has been placed in charge of a high-tech initiative meant to make the community safer.

Justin Bates started this week as the fire district’s new deputy chief of strategic services, according to the fire district, where he’ll oversee a push to improve rescuer response times through new data-analysis tools.

Bates has more than two decades of experience — most recently as deputy chief of operations with Medford Fire-Rescue. District 3 Deputy Chief of Operations Mike Hussey said Bates brings “a good analytical mind” to the role, able to pull data from different sources for a variety of purposes.

Hussey said they plan to draw from that data for a pair of initiatives — an internal program focused on improving equipment logistics, and an external program seeking to reduce common calls for service by fostering community partnerships.

On the equipment end, Bates will draw from updated systems that tell fire chiefs exactly where their crews are located at a given moment, according to Hussey, along with deeper real-time information about the equipment crews are using, such as how many calls the fire engine they’re driving has responded to that day.

Bates will also manage the inventory program to ensure that the consumable equipment involved in rescues, such as oxygen tanks, are ready and in the right place ahead of service calls.

“So much of it’s going to be data driven,” Hussey said.

The data-analysis tools also spot rising trends for rescue calls, according to Hussey, who said Bates’ collaborative work style will help the agency work with other agencies to mitigate risks.

Most programs with other agencies in the community are largely in the planning stages, but a program meant to reduce water rescues near Gold Hill is farther along. The fire district is working with the city of Gold Hill and Jackson County Sheriff’s Office to install signs warning of hazardous rapids ahead, and signs directing less-experienced rafters to a landing spot.

Hussey said an idea being discussed is a partnership with other agencies to address homeless issues, which played a role in a string of summer fires along the Bear Creek Greenway.

“We’re impacted by the homeless in a different way,” Hussey said. “We’ve got to find ways to collaborate.”

One transient died July 17, 2018, in the Penninger fire, which closed several Central Point businesses, the Medford airport and singed homes after winds caused a transient campfire near the Expo to rapidly balloon.

Hussey said the fire agency will especially seek partners who look into the mental health component of the homeless problem.

Other partnerships are still developing, according to Hussey. For example, one idea being floated would include partnerships with neighborhood watch groups and homeowners associations who could check in on seniors prone to falls in their homes — or look into ways to reduce falls in the first place.

Bates’ collaborative work style will help these projects get off the ground, according to Hussey, who said Bates can do more than “just establish a vision, but can create a path.”

“We kind of have an open mind on where some of the efforts will go,” Hussey said.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

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