|Protective equipment stands ready at Wallowa Lake fire station|
The task force will draw up recommendations to induce current firefighters to move to the lake or non-firefighters to move to the lake and become firefighters, according to Chuck Anderson, the district’s board president.
Members of the Volunteer Firefighter Recruitment and Retention Task Force are Anderson, board vice president James Burton and community members Michael Vali, Randy Slinker and Pam Slinker. Non-member advisers are Fire Chief Jeffrey Wecks, Enterprise insurance agent Les Bridges and Larry Wooldridge, chief of La Grande Rural Fire Protection District.
“Very few residents live at the lake year round and we have tried to recruit from among them,” Anderson said. “It’s a tough problem, since ideally we should have five or six firefighters on our roster and right now we’re lucky to have two available to respond to a call for service.”
The firefighters belong to Joseph Fire Department, which provides fire and rescue services to the district under a contract. In an emergency, firefighters also respond from the Joseph fire station.
In 2010, a shortage of firefighters worsened the district’s fire rating, resulting in increased homeowner insurance premiums. The rating was reestablished two years later. Anderson said the fire board hopes to avoid a repeat of that episode.
The task force is being asked to make its recommendations by March 1.