Like other departments across the state and nation, the Colton Rural Fire Protection District #70 has seen its call volume increase, almost double just in the last 5 years. In 2010 the department ran 235 calls, in 2017 the call volume reached 455.
The fire service has seen a shift in the type of calls from fire to medical. With the prevention programs, construction improvements, inspection and building codes and use of smoke detectors, there has been a dramatic decline in fires. There are multiple reasons for the increase of medical calls, some of those being an aging community to the population growth our region has seen.
It has been very challenging to say the least. With a growing call volume and demand for service, there has been a national trend of volunteer firefighters/EMT's decreasing. You have two income families, so there is limited time to share between family time and department time. Also, there has been an increase in training requirements. We are expected to provide a wide range of services including fires, emergency medical incidents, hazardous materials incidents, natural disasters, various rescues, and public service calls. There is an enormous amount of time and training that needs to go into preparation for these emergencies.
Being from a smaller community, we have had to be creative and progressive about recruiting and retaining our volunteers. Some of those include the out-of-district program, student program and resident volunteer program, which have been around for a while. Our latest venture is to provide childcare for those who wish to volunteer and respond. The childcare provider would be a member of the department and have response guidelines as the other responders do, but would be here to assist while the volunteer is at training or on a call serving their community.
Another challenge is our budget. We have had to definitely do more with less. Last year we cut a full-time position to a part-time position with those savings going into much needed equipment and training for the department. We could not have some of the equipment and success we do without the help from our mutual aid districts such as Canby, Molalla, Clackamas and Estacada.
While it appears to look like a doom and gloom story, ours is actually one of success! Colton has been able to maintain a solid number of volunteers over the years, despite the roller coaster of firefighters that come and go. I attribute that to a solid core of volunteers as well as a supportive board and community. We have also had a great record regarding response times as well as the number of units that respond. I would like to thank those volunteers for all of their hard work and dedication. We encourage everyone to volunteer or become a part of our department. There are a variety of roles, including a support role, firefighters and EMTs.
-Chief Richard Beaudoin
Note: This letter was also published in the Molalla Pioneer. A link to that story can be found here.