A fire call on Oct. 11 brought Wallowa Lake property owners halfway to probable reduction of fire insurance rates that were increased after firefighters stopped responding from the lake station as a vote of no-confidence in the then-fire board.
The halfway point was reached when four Joseph firefighters living at the lake responded from the lake fire station on Engine 5 to a smoking power pole near Wallowa Lake Resort. It was the first 9-1-1 call at the lake in months.
The national Insurance Services Office, whose ratings are followed by many insurance carriers, requires at least two responses with four firefighters before it will consider the station to be functioning.
When a second response is recorded, Fire Chief Tom Clevenger will report to the ISO and request that it reinstate the station and change the rating.
The ISO increased the rating earlier this year when it learned that there were no firefighters to respond from the lake. The firefighters declined to serve from the district’s station after district directors – none of whom is on the current board – took several actions including hiring an attorney to challenge sections of the pending fire protection contract with the city of Joseph.
Board members also had disparaged Clevenger, the Joseph fire chief, in public meetings and stopped notifying him of board meetings. Additionally, they attempted end runs around Clevenger, going directly to Joseph city officials, and there was controversy around giving district equipment to the Joseph department and equipping a “fireboat” against the advice of the fire chief.
The ensuing uproar caused lake residents and property owners to threaten a recall of the board. Rather than face a recall election, board members resigned one by one and were replaced by appointees.
Four of the current board members were elected in May and the fifth member was appointed in September.
A second fire call on Oct. 29 fell short of qualifying for ISO consideration when only three firefighters responded to the station. The call was cancelled anyway