Fire 7 facing rising costs

by Richard Uhlhorn

At Wednesday, February 16th Chelan County Fire District No. 7’s, commission meeting, Chief Brandon Asher brought the commission up on issues facing the District.

One of the largest issues facing the department is a two person request for all emails for one commissioner and three administrators. “This is going to require a lot of staff time,” said Administrative Clerk Carol Kibler. “We have reached out to our attorney,” she added.

Commissioner Phil Moller asked it there was anything the commissioners could do to help alleviate this issue. Chief Asher replied that the department has made every attempt to address the issue with the requester and is confident that they won’t find anything derogatory to the District.

Commissioner Karyl Oules asked how much this process is likely to cost the requester? Kibler replied that it will cost them nothing. The files are too large for a PDF and would need to be printed. “Can’t we charge them for our time and the attorney’s time,” asked Oules. (Note: the City of Chelan charges for printing public records requests.)

Asher said, “We will produce what they are asking for.” Commissioner Russ Jones added that these individuals never come to meetings and ask questions. Moller suggested hiring a part-time person, but Kibler replied that the District would have to go through each email anyway to make sure nothing classified is released. She added that the request will cost the District several thousand dollars.

The wildfire season is only several months away and Chelan Fire and Rescue is
seeking to hire several seasonal firefighters to help out this season. This photo is from
the 1994 Tyee Fire Complex when it threatened Lakeside and forced evacuations.

Fire Chief’s report:

Asher reported that the District is expecting another $123,000+ dollars for last year’s mobilization call outs and that they received another $48,000 that morning from the Oregon call out.

He told the commission that the 2022 budget has been amended and that the district’s attorney suggested that the District not create a separate line item for the additional tax money that will be collected. He suggested that they put those funds into a interest bearing reserve account until it was needed.

The District responded to 68 call outs which was the second highest January on record. There were 46 EMS calls with 11 Advanced Life Support, 24 Basic Life Support and 11 No Transfers.

Asher said the District was the first to respond to the Chevron for a 53 year old heart attack victim (Marty Wason) where a bystander had already started CPR. “It was an outstanding performance. We arrived first within minutes and he was fighting for his life,” said Asher. “It shows how important it is to get people on scene quickly.” EMS arrived shortly after Russ Jones and several EMT firefighters arrived on the scene.

Asher reported that the District responded to a fire in Swanson Gulch where there were no fire hydrants to draw water from. Orondo also responded with its water truck. “We were down to 100 gallons and used that water to keep other structures and an RV from catching fire.”

The Swanson Gulch fire was a $79,582 building loss and an estimated $220,000 content loss. “We were able to safe a 40 foot RV,” said Asher.

Asher reported that everyone was off COVID protocol and they are back to being fully staffed.

Before official fire season begins, Chelan Fire and Rescue will host a kickoff ZOOM meeting to include all fire departments, the DNR and Forest Service. “Hillary Franz and the media will be attending.”

A recruit academy that began on February 4th  in Wenatchee is full of very motivated individuals,” said Asher. “We are happy with how that is going.”

Due to COVID, Asher is hopefully confident that the District will be able to extend its SAFER grant contract to use up remaining funds.

Unfinished Business:

The District went out for bids to replace the Fire Station’s roof and were shocked to receive one bid for $197,000 for complete replacement and $142,000 for an overlay. The District had estimated the cost at $125,000.

“It was significantly higher than we expected,” said Asher. A walk through has been requested. They were assured that an overlay would last for 30 years if the City would allow it. “We are reaching out to another roofer to see if he wants to re-bid the project,”

Asher explained. “We don’t have to take the first bid.”

The District has received two applications so far for the Assistant Fire Chief position that it would like to fill before the wildfire season begins. “I expect a few more before the March deadline,” said Asher.

The Department has received two letters of interest in the request to hire seasonal firefighters for the year.

A final draft of the City of Chelan Fire Protection Services Contract is in hand, but the City has several individuals on extended medical leave and can’t complete the MOU currently.

The Apparatus Planning Team has reported that the cost of new fire rigs is up dramatically; three 4% increase in 2021 and an 8% increase in January. A Type 1 apparatus will now cost $725,000 instead of $550,00. “We are in new economic times,” said Asher. He suggested that the department either hold several workshops on the issue or include the issue in its Strategic Planning sessions. The commissioners prefer the workshop option. “We have a lot of options out there and hope we can make it happen.”

Author: allthingslakechelan

I have been a journalist, photojournalist and reporter in the Lake Chelan Valley since 1988; first with the Wenatchee World, then 15 years at the Lake Chelan Mirror and another 12 years at GoLakeChelan. Currently, I am semi-retired but can't give up the media gig which is why I started All Things Lake Chelan blog. I also have two social media platforms; allthingslakechelan/facebook and lakechelansportsandrecration/facebook. I am also a professional photographer with many credits with major outlets around the world.

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