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Editorial: Editorial Hood River connection vital to rebuilding Cascade Locks Fire.

January 11, 2012

Firefighters like to make sure they roll up their hoses the right way so they are ready to go when needed.

It's a suitable analogy for the cautious step taken by Hood River City Council Monday on the question of an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Cascade Locks for fire and emergency services.

Cascade Locks City Council unanimously agreed on Jan. 4 to hire Devon Wells as interim fire chief, one of three steps that newly formed body took toward repairing an agency that was seriously dysfunctional for most of the last half of 2011.

It was reported in this newspaper on Jan. 7 that Cascade Locks would hire Wells, the Hood River fire chief, as its interim through June. The article should have indicated that the decision needed accompanying approval by the Hood River Council.

On Monday, Hood River indicated its support for the idea, but decided to delay adoption until the two cities could negotiate the agreement and ensure Wells' service to Cascade Locks did not interfere with his duties in Hood River.

Wells has plenty to do in Hood River, with the department's impending move to its new fire hall, but he also has plenty of able help from the rest of the HRFD command.

Also, the willingness by Wells to get Cascade Locks back on its feet is something he and the rest of the Hood River fire districts have already demonstrated. Wells showed this repeatedly in the past five months as he reached out to Cascade Locks officials including former acting chief Jess Zerfing and interim city administrator Paul Koch. That relationship was formalized in October when Cascade Locks hired Wells as a consultant to come up with a plan to reorganize the troubled department. That plan was presented, and adopted, Jan. 4, appointing Zerfing as one of three senior officers.

Zerfing and other volunteers, as well as Mayor Lance Masters and members of the council, expressed great confidence that Wells can guide the CLFD back into a fully operational status.

(A vote of confidence from the Fire Board can be seen in Chief Jim Trammell's letter, at right.)

The city of Hood River, and its fire department, have an interest in the success of CLFD. It bears reiteration that the relative health and wellness of that department has an impact on the rest of the county. This refers to CLFD's ability to take care of its own citizens, as well as provide mutual aid to other departments (which gradually it is now able to do again).

As Hood River Mayor Arthur Babitz succinctly put it, "Anyone driving on the freeway wants a functioning fire department in Cascade Locks." CLFD is responsible for what happens on I-84 between Viento and Multnomah Falls.

The Hood River department is the largest in the county and has by far the largest professional staff. Wells, along with Trammell and the other chiefs, have attested they stand ready to help.

It is good that the Hood River council wants to take some time to review the proposed contract; another two weeks for a formal decision. The Hood River Council next meets in two weeks and that timeline will not adversely affect Cascade Locks' rebuilding efforts, as Wells is already on retainer as consultant. He told CL City Council last week he would work with his own council to make himself available to Cascade Locks whenever they need him.

Zerfing and others in Cascade Locks stressed that the reorganization plan depends on the active participation by Wells. He has the leadership skills and his own department has the talent and experience to ensure that everyone's hoses get rolled up and ready.

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