Mosier Fire District: changes in leadership and direction – Where we’ve been and where we are going

Late in 2016, Mosier Fire District contracted the Special Districts Association of Oregon (SDAO) to perform a comprehensive audit of Mosier Fire District (MFD,) including staffing, budgets, capacity, operations, safety and planning – to gauge how we can continuously improve.

SDAO expert consultants included three retired Fire Chiefs with decades of experience each, who advised the team on areas of improvement to better serve the growing safety needs of our community.

Once the initial assessment was completed, the MFD Board held months of planning meetings, lengthy discussions with staff, volunteers, state experts, and the public to reinvigorate Mosier Fire Department and determine the next steps forward.

It had become clear that the department’s needs had changed over the last seven years and the Chief’s role was much more complex than during the agency’s start up phase. On 11/8/17, Mosier Fire District Board voted unanimously to conclude its contract with Fire Chief Jim Appleton. This step was made with appreciation for all that Appleton has done for the community.

The board appointed the current Training Officer Mike Renault, a veteran with 30 years of fire service experience, as Interim Fire Chief until future leadership decisions were made.

Where to from here

A commitment to continuous evaluation and improvement are hallmarks of successful public safety agencies. MFD Board takes this commitment seriously, and hired SDAO, the state experts in small public service districts for Oregonians.

We’ve made needed improvements – from enhancing training and volunteer recruitment to policy development and strategic planning. We took action on SDAO’s “top 10” recommendations, which were focused on reducing risk and adopting best practices of the fire service industry.

MFD Board doubled its board meetings, added a second monthly work session and brought in trainers from SDAO to guide staff, Board and volunteers in establishing service priorities.

Our district provides fire suppression, emergency medical services (EMS), rescue of persons and fire prevention activities. We are realigning our organization to meet Mosier’s expanding needs –1400+ households, with a real market value of more than $142 million across 22 square miles, or 14,080 acres.

As a small, mostly volunteer fire and EMS agency with one full time Chief, we still have a ways to go, but we are excited about the enhanced focus of purpose, teamwork and synergy with volunteers, mutual aid and state partners.

The MFD goal is to move forward from our district’s start up phase, to a long-term sustainable operation that is team-based, with a focus on higher safety standards, adding structural fire protection, and enhancing our response model from a “one man band” strategy to professional development and team-based coverage.

Enhanced training and Interim Fire Chief

The Board took swift action on the SDAO recommendation to hire a Training Officer, to ensure our safety training and certifications met industry standards. Mike Renault was hired under contract June 1, with a specific focus of delivering regular trainings, enhancing professional certifications for staff and volunteers, and adding structural fire protection for Mosier homes.

In the short term, he resolved the DPSST (state training standards) re-certification of our agency, which was on the verge of lapsing.

Renault reported to Chief Appleton, who appointed him Division Chief. Hats off to Renault for continuing to move the MFD team forward, staying focused on training and team building, despite changes in leadership.

MFD responders were tested in the interim- and succeeded

Chief Renault and the volunteer team have been tested in the last month with a doubling of our normal call volume. Despite Renault’s part time Chief status, and more frequent emergency calls, our team met all calls promptly and professionally.

Also in the last month, Renault also met with neighboring fire agencies to help expand partnership and mutual aid support with Hood River and Wasco counties. More to come in the future.

Our sincere thanks go to the Fire and EMS team – particularly unpaid volunteers, who have been the heart of our department since its beginning, circa 1919, when a single fire event destroyed much of downtown Mosier.

Where we are headed

After generations of all-volunteer firefighter service, taxpayers began investing in the MFD special tax district seven years ago. After this start up phase, our focus has shifted to raising the bar for Fire and EMS services and safety with a combined paid/volunteer model.

Enhanced teamwork with partner agencies, safety and regulatory compliance, continuous training, and volunteer recruitment and retention are vital. So is adding structural fire protection and much-needed safety focus, after the high-profile fire incidents we have seen in the last decade.

Our promise to you is this – we will continue to listen, ask questions, seek advice and move our district forward, in the best interests of the citizens we serve. MFD is focused on ensuring that our program is effective, maximizes resources and meets the highest, best needs of our community.

 

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