John Logan started his new role leading the Cascade Locks Fire and EMS Department on July 4.
It was fitting date for such a beginning, because it was the Fourth of July some 28 years ago that Logan formed his desire to become a firefighter.
He is now captain of the department. The Hood River Valley native has been a volunteer for the past 17 years with West Side Fire District.
“I was 3 or 4 years old at the July 4 parade and I thought, ‘Those trucks are cool’,” Logan recalled.
“That’s where it all started, and my aunt is good friends of Chris Nickelson, the West Side Fire chief, and in high school I asked him, ‘How do I become a volunteer?’ He said, ‘I’ll get you an application.’”
He attended student firefighter school from age 15 and started serving as a volunteer at 17.
“Where has the time gone?’” said Logan, a 2004 HRVHS graduate.
In early 2019, Logan got a call from Cascade Locks Mayor Tom Cramblett, “Who said, ‘We have a job open, and hear you’re looking for a fire job, let’s talk.’ That’s how it started,” Logan said.
“I’m excited to be here,” he said.
“I was looking to start my career in the fire service and get paid for it. The volunteer side of the thing is most important to the community; volunteers save taxpayers money, and 80 percent of firefighters are volunteers.”
City administrator Gordon Zimmerman formally holds the position of chief; according to Logan, “The captain runs the day-to-day emergency responses and things around the station, prepares the budget, manages the volunteers, and manages the calls.”
The department needs volunteers and is in a staffing flux, according to Logan.
Currently the only other full-time paid staff is Tom Calley, firefighter-EMT; Rebecca Gehrman, firefighter paramedic, left at the end of September for a job with Skamania EMS.
Staffing in flux
A part-time paramedic, Jeff Dana, started in September.
Logan said the department is in the process of hiring two more paramedics; that includes a new firefighter-paramedic position recently approved by city council. At full staffing, each paramedic has an EMT partner.
“It’s a challenge,” Logan said of staffing and recruiting and maintaining volunteers.
“We’re so close to the metro area and we’re fighting the metro area for responders.”
Currently, the department has one volunteer who lives in the community. Others live in Gresham, Hood River and other communities. Volunteers come to the fire hall and serve shifts.
“Ideally, you want volunteers to live in the community and respond from home to station,” Logan said.
“We have had applications come in, and it’s reassuring and promising, and we look forward to having more come in,” he said.
Logan noted that “volunteerism around the country is down tremendously, all the county departments can use volunteers.
“We’re just a smaller community that’s more of an island in the county, so it shows more here.” The department enjoys mutual aid agreements with all county fire agencies, along with Corbett and Skamania.
“Coming from West Side, I have a good relationship with all the county chiefs, so that’s helped,” Logan said.
Getting the word out
He still serves as a West Side volunteer, and brings that perspective to his new role.
“I have a knowledge of how a volunteer agency works and functions, being that I was a volunteer for 17 years and seeing how volunteers were managed at West Side, which has 50-60 volunteers on the roster, and how to treat volunteers.”
Outreach and visibility are the keys to growing the department, Logan said.
“We’ve tried to get out in the community, being at any event, having the fire engine there, stickers for kids, sandwich board advertising, and the simple fact that the bay doors are open has helped, just opening up the station.”
Logan is working with staff and the revived Auxiliary to hold an open house sometime this fall.
“We’ve recently started up our Auxiliary again, so we are getting some of the people who were around way back when in the 1990s when the department was really strong, and their Auxiliary was strong, back engaged and getting more boots on the ground, working events,” Logan said. Long-time volunteer Jess Zerfing is taking the lead on the Auxiliary, with people 11 signed up.
The Auxiliary helps plan events and does outreach as well as provides support in case of a major emergency.
Logan and his wife, Katelynn, have purchased a home in Cascade Locks and their children, John Henry and Emmy, both attend Cascade Locks School.
“As leader of the agency, it’s good to live in the community. It’s been good,” he said.
On that first say, he said, “Things went smoothly, we had a medical response across the river, and report of a fire on Forest Lane that was fireworks smoldering in the roadway.
“It’s been busy, we had 57 calls in July, compared to 41 in July 2018. Just a lot of them.”
Cascade Locks nuances
“It’s been interesting, there are a lot of nuances in Cascade Locks, such as responding across the river and to Multnomah County, a lot of radios in the apparatus that aren’t in the rest of the county’s (vehicles) so it’s been interesting figuring that out,” Logan said.
He said what serves him sell is his long-time, grassroots status as a veteran volunteer who started at a young age.
“The connections I have with the rest of the valley and my, hopefully, good graces with everyone in the county, I hope I haven’t irritated people too much,” he jokes.
“Everyone’s been super supportive to make sure not only I succeed, but the department in Cascade Locks succeeds.”