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News / Clark County News

Silver Star Search and Rescue personnel settle into East County Fire and Rescue’s Station 92

Silver Star’s lease with city of Washougal expired in October 2023

By Doug Flanagan, Camas-Washougal Post-Record
Published: May 18, 2024, 6:10am
2 Photos
Silver Star Search and Rescue medical officer Jeff Berner, right, and board member Tom Nichols look at the front of East County Fire and Rescue&rsquo;s Station 92 on May 13.
Silver Star Search and Rescue medical officer Jeff Berner, right, and board member Tom Nichols look at the front of East County Fire and Rescue’s Station 92 on May 13. (Doug Flanagan/Camas-Washougal Post-Record) Photo Gallery

CAMAS — Silver Star Search and Rescue is settling into its new home north of Camas and Washougal.

The search and rescue group moved into East County Fire and Rescue’s Station 92 near Northeast 292nd Avenue and Northeast Ireland Road in October. The move was necessary when the group’s lease with the city of Washougal expired, forcing the organization to find a new home.

“We’re relieved that we have a place to keep our equipment,” rescue coordinator Rick Blevins said.

Formed by a group of CB radio operators in the early 1960s to assist the sheriff’s office, Silver Star operated out of its headquarters at 1220 A St., next to the Washougal Police Department, starting in 1983. Leaders struck an agreement with the city to build a site on city-owned property with a 35-year lease.

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Silver Star volunteers perform search-and-rescue missions across Southwest Washington. They cover miles of wilderness while looking for missing hikers, climbers and hunters. They also help police departments search for lost children and other at-risk individuals.

“We have close to 30 members, and I would say at least 16 that are really active,” Blevins said. “Our numbers have actually been increasing. I wish we had a bigger facility to hold all of them.”

In 2019, the city informed Silver Star leaders that the lease, which was set to expire in October 2023, would not be renewed. The city is planning to use the building as a temporary fire station during its fire-police station remodel, which it hopes to kick off next year.

“The day we got the letter that confirmed that (the city wasn’t) going to renew the lease, the stress level just went tenfold,” Blevins said. “Trying to find a place … was very stressful because time was just moving at jet speed.”

Just enough for storage

Blevins credited the efforts of Silver Star board President Wade Oxford, who negotiated a renewable two-year agreement with East County Fire and Rescue, which allowed Silver Star to use the station building for free.

“They were just using this building for storage (because it’s) not up to standards for the fire department. There’s no water. There’s no septic tank or anything like that,” Blevins said. “This is just a building that can house equipment. That’s all.”

Silver Star leaders had a moving sale in September to unload equipment that it wouldn’t fit in its new facility. They were able to keep some of their furniture, however, relocating it to The Outpost in Washougal.

“It was rough on the team, for sure, because we’ve been in that building for a very long time,” said Jacie Bogar, vice president of the Silver Star Search and Rescue board of directors. “We have a place now, so we’re very thankful and grateful for that.”

Station 92, at 4909 N.E. 292nd Ave. in Camas, is just big enough to house Silver Star’s rescue truck — a Ford Super Duty F-250, affectionately called Sasquatch by volunteers — snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles and other equipment.

“We do a lot of stuff out towards Skamania, and a lot of the calls are out in the Gorge, so it’s nice to be closer to the highway,” Bogar said. “And we’re very excited to be working with ECFR. We’re looking at setting up some joint training sessions and working together in the future, so that’s exciting. That’s a positive outcome.”

Station 92 doesn’t have any meeting space, however, so board members and volunteers gather at The Outpost and the Armed Forces Reserve Center in Orchards, where they also hold training sessions.

“I know eventually, we’d love to have our own building all together again, but I don’t think we’re looking,” Bogar said. “I think right now, we’re just happy to have a place to have all of our equipment and have a new home.”