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New fire dept. hires thanks to $1 million in grants

Columbia River Fire and Rescue is expanding its reach through the hiring of a new volunteer coordinator and three new firefighters.

The fire district received more than $1 million in the form of two grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) this summer. The SAFER grants (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) are intended to replace or augment emergency response staff, said Fire Chief Jay Tappan.by: CRFR - Jennifer Motherway was hired as Columbia River Fire and Rescues new volunteer coordinator Sept. 28.

He announced the hiring of local resident Jennifer Motherway as the fire districts new volunteer coordinator on Sept. 28. She was selected following a highly competitive recruitment and assessment process, Tappan said. The field was narrowed from over 70 applicants to five before the fire district selected Motherway.

The volunteer coordinator position is an important one to the district. Columbia River Fire and Rescue often relies heavily on volunteer firefighters.

“We want to really focus on retention and recruitment,” Tappan said.

Tappan said the grant enabling them to hire Motherway is intended to address countywide needs.

“The five fire districts in Columbia County have always worked closely with each other,” he said in July after he first heard that the fire district had received the grants. “We hope to further strengthen that linkage with this coordinator position.”

Tappan said the district had applied for this particular grant before and they believed they had a good chance of receiving it.

The second SAFER grant enabling the district to hire three additional firefighters/paramedics was more of a surprise.

“That grant was out of the blue,” Tappan said.

He added that the funding will help the fire district “maintain the daily staffing levels we have identified as crucial to providing the high levels of service we have committed to in our district deployment plan.”

The new hires will bring paid firefighter staffing back up to over 30 firefighters.