There has been a surge of community support for the Forest Grove Volunteer Fire Department (FGVFD), following the threat of a shutdown and dissolution of the 30-year-old service.
In a heavily attended and lively public meeting at the Forest Grove Community Hall on March 14, fire chief Bob Felker said the number of firefighters had declined, leaving Hall #1 with only seven active firefighters, and Hall #2 with five.
These numbers fall far short of the minimum required complement of 15 at Hall #1 and 10 at Hall #2.
Rowena Bastien, protective service manager for the Cariboo Regional District (CRD), which owns the property and equipment used by the department, said that the minimum roster of 15 and 10 are standards insisted upon by the Fire Underwriters Survey (FUS).
The FUS certifies a fire department for property insurance purposes. If a fire department cannot maintain its certification with the FUS, the CRD shuts it down, sells the assets to pay debts, and then divides the balance of the proceeds among the ratepayers.
Thereafter, there is no longer fire or medical emergency coverage. She gave a deadline of two months to get the numbers up.
Seven new members signed up that night, and many more applications were taken.
The FGVFD then held an open house on March 18 at Hall #1. It was a busy and spirited gathering, with vehicles filling the hall’s parking area and spilling out onto Canim-Hendrix Lake Road.
Ten dozen hotdogs, along with coffee and hot chocolate, were served by Wendy Clarke. Matt Wiesendahl and Don Hewitt ran a flaming fire-extinguisher training activity that was a great hit with the youngsters.
Deputy chiefs Robin Clarke and Ron Lister kept busy demonstrating equipment and hoisting children in and out of the fire engines.
Other fire department members engaged the visitors, making introductions, trading stories and answering questions.
Twelve more applications were received, and again more were taken for consideration. Felker said he is extremely happy with the amazing support shown by the community.
Training of the new personnel started on March 19.