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Estacada fire department ready to respond

Despite facility challenges, agency is prepared for any emergency


by: NEWS PHOTO: SCOTT JORGENSEN - Lt. Bruce Courtain closes the back of a fire truck after checking equipment.The inside of the Estacada fire station almost looks like the living room of a modest apartment. There are a few recliners in place, along with a dining room table and a kitchen.

But what separates the station from the average dwelling is the fact that on the other side of a set of doors, there's a series of fire trucks ready to respond to any emergency.

On some level, the station has changed very little since Lt. Bruce Courtain first started volunteering with the department in 1983. Many of the maintenance tasks are still the same, with equipment being checked every day.

The biggest differences are notable, though. When Courtain became a career firefighter in 1989, there were typically three people working per shift. Now that’s up to six.

A book of protocols to be used by the department has grown exponentially. Courtain used to take notes on a legal pad. That same pad would last for months on end.

“Now we go through reams of paper a year,” he said.

Department personnel are now charged with performing more duties, including researching and purchasing equipment. They are required to be EMT intermediaries, a certification that was not in place when Courtain began his career.

Around 70 percent of the calls the department responds to anymore are medical emergencies. The other 30 percent entails everything else, including fires and fallen power lines. However, the department and its personnel are trained, equipped and prepared to deal with whatever comes up.

There is no ambulance service in Estacada. If such service is required, a unit is dispatched from Boring or Sandy — or even Multnomah County, if such vehicles aren’t readily available from a local source.

This was the case fairly recently, when crews were summoned to a call on the edge of the district and an ambulance had to come out all the way from Gresham.

“That’s why it’s important that we do what we do,” Courtain said.

Often, firefighters are on scene 10 to 15 minutes before an ambulance. It’s up to firefighters to provide the initial contact until additional help can arrive.

Courtain said that the department’s response time during the day is around two minutes from the time somebody calls dispatch.

“Basically, it’s just driving time,” he said.

Firefighters receive information from dispatch along the way. Before they leave the station, they already know if they’re responding to a fire or a first aid call, and have already obtained the location of the incident.

An F-350 truck is used to transport firefighters to most calls. Including all of its specialized equipment, the rig cost around $80,000.

One truck is used primarily for wild land fires and for downed power lines. Another truck is used for fires and crashes and is fitted with extrication equipment.

Most of the department’s vehicles are specifically for fires but can also be used for medical emergencies.

The department also has a 3,000-gallon fire tender, which can be used for the parts of the district that lack hydrants.

“We take the water with us,” Courtain said.

At this point, the department has 10 career firefighters and around 30 volunteers. That’s enough to ensure that the fire station is staffed around the clock with trained personnel.

“There’s someone on duty 24-7, 365 days a year,” Courtain said.

Additional volunteers are always being sought, and applications are accepted year round.

Applicants have to be 18 years or older. There is an interview process, a civil service test and a physical agility test.

Every day as a firefighter is different, Courtain said, “and that’s what makes it interesting.”

Courtain characterizes the fire department as a form of insurance—hopefully, the average person won’t ever need it. But if and when they do, it will be right there to help them when it matters the most.

“We are a service organization,” he said. “We service the customer, whoever that customer might be.”

For more information on how to volunteer with the department, go to estacadafire.org.




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