Community, Gales Creek, News

You can apply to be a Gales Creek volunteer firefighter through July 16

An opportunity to receive paid training and volunteer as a firefighter in Gales Creek, Forest Grove, and Cornelius is open, but not for long, Forest Grove Fire & Rescue said.

“If you’re interested in making a difference in your community, this is your chance,” FGF&R said, noting that no firefighting experience was needed to apply.

Those interested in volunteering with FGF&R this fall have through Sunday, July 16 to submit an application to join the department’s 12-week firefighting academy, which will begin in late August or early September on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

Those interested must be at least 18 years old, possess an Oregon drivers license, have a good driving record, pass a background check, and have a high school diploma or equivalent like a GED. An application and more information can be found online. Those with questions were asked to email [email protected].

FGF&R, officially part of the city of Forest Grove, serves Gales Creek and other rural areas in the Forest Grover Rural Fire Protection District through agreements and joint ownership of the Gales Creek Fire Station.

“It would be great to get more volunteers from Gales Creek that would go into that station,” said Forest Grove Fire & Rescue Division Chief and Volunteer Coordinator Steve Black in a phone interview with the Gales Creek Journal.

FGF&R has a management agreement to serve the Cornelius Fire Department as well, so some volunteers choose to respond to calls throughout that entire area, but Black said volunteers from Gales Creek can certainly choose to stick to rural calls.

Once a volunteer passes the academy, passes a physical and finishes the certification process to become a firefighter, they’re expected to attend eight hours of training per month. Volunteers that don’t live in the local district are also required to maintain 24 hours of staffing, while in-district volunteers must simply show that they’re active volunteers.

In Forest Grove, Cornelius, and Gales Creek, around 50 volunteers complement the paid staff of Forest Grove Fire & Rescue, serving on calls ranging from rescuing a kitten to battling wildfires to responding to vehicle crashes.

In Gales Creek, a formerly robust volunteer firefighting force has dwindled in recent years. In 1997, at least eight volunteers, most of whom lived in Gales Creek, served the area.

That’s no longer the case.

Volunteer firefighters are less common throughout the district, Black said. He believes it’s a mix of causes causing the dwindling volunteerism.

“People are working longer hours, or maybe two jobs,” Black said.

In the past, he said that some families could more often afford to have one person be a stay-at-home parent and also volunteer at their local fire department.

At the same time, qualifications to be a firefighter take a lot more time and effort to maintain a volunteer presence at a fire department.

“The volunteers are the people who want to get on for the right reasons,” he said, but he understands why someone might look at the time required and be unable to afford it.

While still ably served by Forest Grove Fire & Rescue, the only station in the entirety of the Forest Grove Rural Fire Protection District is an all-volunteer station, with a compliment of three volunteers who live in the manufactured home adjacent to the Gales Creek Fire Station and another volunteer who spends part of the weekend in Gales Creek when able.

What most frequently rolls out of the Gales Creek Fire Station is a brush rig, which requires only two people to staff it, Black said. An engine takes three qualified people; an officer, engineer, and firefighter.

Even with the three volunteers living adjacent to the station, it can be difficult to find enough Gales Creek-area firefighters to respond to calls.

The three volunteers who live in the manufactured home are all college students who also have jobs and are required to maintain at least eight hours of training per month, so they’re not always available to respond to a call.

Volunteer firefighters actually do receive some compensation, Black said.

Volunteers receive $10 per call they respond to, and $10 for attending Tuesday night drills. There’s opportunities for further certification that could also qualify a volunteer to go out on a statewide or even to a different state to fight wildfires, which comes with an hourly rate, and occasionally temporary employment needs open up from time-to-time at FGF&R as well, Black said.

Those interested in serving in a volunteer capacity but not in a “combat” role can contact Steve Black.

There’s also opportunities to be a volunteer and serve as an EMT, Black said, though that requires a higher level of certification.

While there’s not currently a formal auxiliary program, Black said there’s usually some form of volunteer opportunities for community members to get involved.

Gales Creek community members recently helped clean up the grounds around the station to prepare for an open house.

Black can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 503-992-3195.

+ posts

Chas Hundley is the editor of the Gales Creek Journal and sister news publications the Banks Post and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

Sign up for free Gales Creek news in your inbox ↓

The groceries your family needs!

New patients only, no cash value, cannot be combined with any other offers