by Richard Uhlhorn
Chelan Fire and Rescue (Chelan County Fire District #7) has a new fire chief. Brandon Asher was sworn in as the district’s new chief by outgoing chairman Phil Moller who is being replaced by Russ Jones after Karyl Oules declined the opportunity to chair the commission.
During the Public Comment period, retired Fire Commissioner Rick Nedrow congratulated Brandon Asher on his ascendancy to the Chief’s position. “The board needs to let the Chief find his place and the Chief needs to allow the same for the board,” said Nedrow. “You have made the right choice.”
Also recognized and sworn in was Firefighter/EMT Brandon Fogelson and the promotion of Recruit Firefighter/LT Ron Simmons who has also assumed the presidency of the Firefighter’s Association.
During Simmons’ report, he stated that a number of people showed up at an Association’s meeting asking how they could become involved. “We are looking for people with an interest in helping the association out,” said Simmons. “There is a lot being done, but I’m still learning about what has been done (in the past).”
Simmons told the Commission that there were no activities planned in the next month or so, so there would be nothing to report, however, he added that if there was information the Commission wanted, he would certainly provide it.
The Firefighters Association has been a conduit between the public, district administration and district needs for several years. Examples of the association’s community service are donations to residents who have suffered fire losses, and to the department, most notably funding for Marine 71, the Coast Guard vessel acquired by the District through Jones and the commission’s efforts.
The Department’s parade vehicle is maintained and operated by members of the Association.
Fire Chief’s Report:
Chief Asher reported that the District’s expenditures were at 95% and that the District received $114,000+ from State Mobilization in 2020 and is expecting another $121,183 in State Mob funding for 2021 in 2022.
The District responded to 1023 Calls-for-Service in 2021. In December, there were 86 Calls-for-Service; 10 were for Advanced Life Support, 25 for Basic Life Support, and 20 for no ambulance transport.
Firefighters were busy during the extreme cold weather helping with multiple water pipe breaks. “The crews were out helping secure water lines,” said Asher.
Asher said RiverCom has a grant that will sync all the Radio Systems in their region. “It is a pretty good program,’ said Asher.
Regarding volunteer recruitment, Asher stated that there was still funding available in the SAFER grant and the District is looking at extending the grant for another 30 to 60 days to expend all the funding available under the grant. “It’ a matter of being equitable with all three districts,” said Asher.
“We got a lot out of this grant over the four years,” said Asher. That included 81 recruits going to the Fire Academy. “A lot of them finished the academy,” he stated.Asher reported that the District has one Hazmat certified indiviual, six Rope-Rescue, four PADI Water Rescue and all have Red Cards for wildland fire fighting.
Currently, the District has seven Career, four Seasonal and 33 Volunteers who are combat qualified. “We dropped a little, but are getting a real solid group.”
Assistant Fire Chief position:
“We’ve had quite a bit of interest in this position, but only one application so far,’ said Asher. The deadline for applications is February 28, interviews will take place on March 14/15 and then the Commissioners will interview the top listed candidates on March 21.
City of Chelan Fire Protection:
Chief Asher said he has received a draft copy of the Memorandum of Understanding between the City and District. “I had only one question,” said Asher. “We should have a final draft real soon.”
District 5/EMS collaboration talks:
He reported that Lake Chelan Health is pretty content with their system and that he had a three hour meeting with Chief Baker. “We were able to change District 5’s drill night to Tuesday’s. I think that is a good start.”
Jones added that he has also discussed the EMS system with a few Hospital Board members. “They are pretty well integrated into the Hospital system,” said Jones. “In talking with some Hospital commissioners, they are not interested.”
Phil Moller said, “We just wanted to house them.” Asher replied, “That is something to talk about.” Ex-Chief Mark Donnell entered the conversation and said, “It’s all about efficiencies. What can we do to be more efficient.” He added that it wasn’t a takeover or merger that was being asked for. Jones stated that the bottom line is cooperation between EMS, District 5 and the rest of the fire services.
LongRange Strategic Planning:
Asher told the Commission that with the passage of the Levy Lid Lift, the time was to begin thinking about long range planning. The Commission agreed to meet on February 21 to discuss the strategic planning steps.
Asher told the Commission that there was a lot of competition for seasonal hiring from the Forest Service and Department of Natural Resources. The District would like to have seasonal employees on by April, prior to the fire season.
Asher told the Commission that the District is looking at purchasing a new, compact 4-wheel drive structural truck that can access the narrow driveways on the South Shore. He stated that there would be no payments for a year. “It would be functional for us.”
Jones said, “With more mob money coming in we will have (up to) $300,000 plus (any) 2022 mob money to help purchase.
Karyl Oules said that there were a lot of things to look at in depth within the District.
Jones brought up an individual’s false narrative on his participation with the community committee that discussed the Levy. Jones said he checked with the State and County and said as a commissioner he was free to interact and to support the committee and levy as long as he didn’t use District facilities, etc.
“It is unfortunate that people use Social Media instead of calling appropriate people.”
The Commissioners moved into executive session to receive and evaluate complaints or charges brought against a public officer or employee. No action was taken afterwards.