Thursday, June 20, 2013


Joseph firefighters will respond to rescue calls at Wallowa Lake without cost under a new contract with Wallowa Lake Rural Fire Protection District.

Joseph’s volunteer fire department always has performed rescues as well as fire suppression at the lake, but until now charged a cost-recovery fee for rescue calls. Its contract with the fire district, first negotiated after the district was formed in 2002, covered only fire calls.

Fire district directors earlier this year asked District Fire Chief Jeffrey Wecks, who also is assistant chief of Joseph Fire, to explore adding rescue calls to the contract.

The new contract, effective July 1, provides cost-free rescue services involving any district resident or property owner, no matter whether the rescue occurs in the lake basin, Joseph or rural areas covered by Joseph Fire.

“We’re prepared to take care of traffic accident rescues, especially those requiring use of the Jaws of Life, and any rope rescue,” Wecks said. The Hurst Jaws of Life uses hydraulic pressure to cut through or spread an opening in auto metal to extricate a trapped occupant.

Lake fire officials expressed appreciation for the improved contract.

“This is a solid example of the Joseph Fire Department’s willingness to work with us and the City Council’s recognition of its role in serving the larger community,” said Chuck Anderson, the fire district’s board president.

The contract will cost the fire district $35,125 for the 2013-14 fiscal year, an 8 percent increase over the 2012-13 rate. The district operates on taxes paid by property owners at the head and foot of the lake and along the West Moraine.

Joseph Fire also intends to station a wildland engine at Wallowa Lake to join the city’s structure-fire engine already housed at the lake fire station. Most of the contract increase is to pay for insurance coverage for the wildland engine. The district board agreed to pay for the insurance in exchange for quick availability of the engine for grass, brush or timber fires.

The wildland engine, previously located at the Joseph fire station, is being replaced in Joseph with a Humvee that firefighters are converting to fight wildland fires. 

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