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Wolf Creek Rural Fire District looks to replace volunteers who resigned last week

Fire at gas station on Old Highway 99 still under investigation

A fire early Wednesday destroyed the grill and deli building next to the Wolf Creek 76 Station on OId Highway 99. Focus of the firefighters who came to assist the community from as far away as Medford, Jacksonville and Ashland was to keep the blaze from reaching the adjacent gasoline pumps.

“It didn’t,” said Austin Prince, operations chief for Rural Metro Fire in Josephine County.

A week earlier, the chief and firefighters with the Wolf Creek Rural Fire Protection District resigned. The district serves a population of about 500 people in a 35-square-mile area of Josephine County.

The people who work for the district are volunteers, though the chief did receive a stipend, said Dave Clark, fire district board president.

He described the district currently as being equipped but without a firefighting staff.

Discussions about how area first responders will provide service to Wolf Creek began Wednesday night during an emergency meeting of the board — less than 24 hours after the multiple-alarm fire occurred at a business within the district coverage area.

“It was a very positive meeting,” Clark said.

A top priority is to find an interim chief to run the district, which will seek help from the Special Districts Association of Oregon to find a new leader, then find new volunteer firefighters.

However, the district can’t afford to pay a chief to run the fire and rescue operations, he stressed.

“Small departments are always tight on money,” Clark said.

He said former Chief Steve Scruggs’ statement last week to a reporter in Grants Pass about the board having no respect for the firefighters who had been serving the community “wasn’t true.”

Scruggs said Thursday that some board members “nickle-and-diming” — especially during a pandemic amid supply shortages — was a safety issue because they needed adequate items to clean and sanitize against COVID-19, for example.

A proposed renewal of the four-year local option tax was approved by voters who participated in the Sept. 21 election. At least 50% of voters must participate in this type of election for the result to count, however, according to Josephine County election documents.

Clark said the district will bring another local option tax proposal to voters in March 2022.

Prince said Wednesday that Rural Metro would help the district based on the existing mutual aid agreement between the fire departments in Jackson and Josephine counties.

Cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Reach reporter Terri Harber at 541-776-4368 or email tharber@rosebudmedia.com.