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Oregon Tribe's First Fire Department On Steady Track

Sara Thompson
Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde

A new, tribally-run fire department is becoming a reality for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde. As KLCC’s Brian Bull reports, the development will improve response time to emergencies.

Currently, the tribe relies on a consolidated fire district in Willamina for services. But Steve Warden, Emergency Services Chief for the Grand Ronde, says that provides an average response time of 17 minutes* when it should be 2-5 minutes.

Furthermore, adds Warden, having a fire department situated on tribal property means security should a Cascadia Subduction Zone event – namely an earthquake – hit.

Credit Sara Thompson / Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde
Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde
Fire station being developed for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.

“Where 9.0 hits the coast, and knocks everything out," says Warden.  "Well, the Grand Ronde is pretty much an island out here, we’ve got one major pinch point that if that bridge goes down nobody’s getting in and nobody’s getting’ out.”

More than $600,000 will be budgeted towards fire station management. The tribe is also exploring federal grants as part of the 5-year timeline. Once created, the fire department will provide roughly a dozen jobs, and emergency skills training for tribal members. 

*Based on 2018 data.

Copyright 2020, KLCC.

Brian Bull is an assistant professor of journalism at the University of Oregon, and remains a contributor to the KLCC news department. He began working with KLCC in June 2016.   In his 27+ years as a public media journalist, he's worked at NPR, Twin Cities Public Television, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Wisconsin Public Radio, and ideastream in Cleveland. His reporting has netted dozens of accolades, including four national Edward R. Murrow Awards (22 regional),  the Ohio Associated Press' Best Reporter Award, Best Radio Reporter from  the Native American Journalists Association, and the PRNDI/NEFE Award for Excellence in Consumer Finance Reporting.
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