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Battle Ground makes transition to Fire District 3

All front-line firefighters employed after city's switch in firefighting, ambulance contractors

By , Columbian environment and transportation reporter
Published: February 15, 2016, 6:00am
3 Photos
Clark County Fire District 3 Assistant Chief Scott Sorenson strolls past the outside of the Battle Ground fire station on Feb. 4. (Photos by Amanda Cowan/The Columbian)
Clark County Fire District 3 Assistant Chief Scott Sorenson strolls past the outside of the Battle Ground fire station on Feb. 4. (Photos by Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Every front-line firefighter who faced the possibility of being laid off after Battle Ground switched its firefighting and ambulance contractor will remain employed at a local fire district.

After nearly 25 years, Battle Ground opted to change its fire and emergency service contractor from Clark County Fire & Rescue to Clark County Fire District 3. District 3 officially took over the contract starting the first of the year.

Eleven firefighters were left between jobs with the switch, but District 3 needed 13 to staff the Battle Ground station. District 3 made job offers to nine former Clark County Fire & Rescue firefighters, and seven accepted.

The other four firefighters found positions at Clark County Fire & Rescue or other fire districts, said District 3 Chief Steve Wrightson.

“As far as I understand, I believe everybody has a job,” he said.

Several Clark County Fire & Rescue administrators also were let go in the transition, but have retired or taken new jobs elsewhere, said Clark County Fire & Rescue Battalion Chief Tim Dawdy.

Some were hired at Fire District 6, and the Vancouver Fire Department allowed testing for lateral hires, he said.

“All these things have helped, and we really want to thank our local fire districts for considering our people,” he said. “What it means is that no one has lost a job.”

Settling in

With staffing handled, District 3 is finishing up outfitting the two city-owned fire engines based at the Battle Ground station and integrating into the community and city government.

“I think one of the biggest things for all of us is to just develop a relationship with the community and all the city departments,” Wrightson said. “We need to make sure people understand who we are and what we’re all about.”

Many of the district’s new hires live in Battle Ground, he said, which has been helpful.

“From our perspective, things are running very smoothly, as we expected,” Battle Ground spokeswoman Bonnie Gilberti said.

There have been lots of meetings and reports, Gilberti said. Firefighters also are getting used to a new service area and to new faces around the station, District 3 Assistant Chief Scott Sorenson said.

“It’s still sensitive, the whole change between agencies,” Sorenson said. “People that worked here before, they’re going through a lot of change. … We’re just working through this together.”

Workers started light painting, carpeting and other minor repair work in the station earlier this month. Wrightson said the transition seemed like a good time for some minor sprucing up.

The station will operate with a 24-hour shift and a 12-hour shift each day, allowing for double coverage during busy times of day.

New contract

The contract’s value has changed, too, growing from about $1.39 million in 2011 to about $2 million in 2014, according to 2014 adjusted budget numbers.

For 2015-16, Battle Ground budgeted for about $4.7 million in expenditures for its fire services contract, or $2.3 million in 2015 and $2.4 million in 2016, according to city records.

Last year, before taking the contract, District 3 responded to about 1,300 calls outside of Battle Ground. During the same time period, there were 2,000 fire and emergency medical service calls within the city of Battle Ground, Wrightson said.

Fire District 3’s contract lasts for six years. As the district settles in, Wrightson said its next step is to work on long-term planning.

The district’s proposal for the contract spoke broadly about its future plans — offer a full-time fire inspector by 2017, have rotating office hours in Battle Ground for the chief and assistant chief, among other things — but it doesn’t really address specifics.

The specifics, and how to accomplish those goals, is what the planning process will look at, Wrightson said.

Until then, morale is high, he said.

“Our guys are really very excited about this,” Wrightson said.

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