News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Fire district leads on public safety in Sisters

Residents of Sisters Country can rightfully take pride in the Sisters-Camp Sherman Rural Fire Protection District that their tax dollars support.

The numbers in the 2018 Annual Report paint the picture of a well-run, professional, financially stable community asset, meeting the various fire prevention services and protection needs of the community, as well as playing a major role as a community healthcare provider.

Fire Chief Roger Johnson can often be seen at any number of meetings and community events in either his role as chief or as a private citizen. The Chief is employed by the District Board of Directors to manage the day-to-day operations of the District.

The District is staffed by career firefighter paramedics, volunteer firefighter/emergency medical technicians (EMTs), Fire Corps volunteers and administrative staff, all of whom are dedicated to serving the community with the highest level of dedication and professionalism.

The Board of Directors is responsible for setting District policy, approving the annual budget, and conducting long-range planning. They hold regular monthly meetings the third Tuesday of each month at 5 p.m. Current board members include: Chuck Newport, president; Bill Rainey, vice president; Jack McGowan; Roger White; and Kristie Miller. There is also a Budget Committee and a Civil Service Commission made up of local citizens.

The District is a combination career and volunteer fire department which blends 24-hour career staff with volunteers who are ready 24/7 to assist in any emergency. Besides Chief Johnson, the administrative staff consists of a Deputy Chief of Operations, Fire Safety Manager, Administrative Assistant, Finance Manager, Office Assistant, and Recruitment/Retention Coordinator.

Career staff make up three shifts, each with a shift commander/paramedic and two engineer/paramedics. There is also a part-time mechanic and part-time volunteer coordinator.

Volunteers are key to the success of the District. There are close to 35 firefighting and firefighting/EMS volunteers and more than a half-dozen EMS-only volunteers, all of whom meet additional staffing needs. Another seven people serve as resident volunteers who work 48-hour shifts with 96 hours off. They are students training in the fire and/or EMS programs at COCC. They live at the fire station, work a shift, and train while attending school. There are also more than two dozen Fire Corps/Prevention volunteers.

The money to operate the District comes mainly (78+ percent) from assessed property taxes with an operating levy of $2.7317 per $1,000 of taxable assessed value. Additional funding sources include fees for service including ambulance revenues. For fiscal year 2017/18, total actual revenue amounted to $3,277,121 with $2,521,788 from property taxes. The expenditures for 2017/18 totaled $2,765,049 with personnel services taking the lion’s share at $2,185,920.

The District has a fundamental philosophy of funding its programs, including capital outlay programs, through the use of general-fund dollars whenever possible. In keeping with that philosophy, the District has set aside reserve funds and created equipment replacement and building maintenance plans to ensure the future financial stability of the District. Also, because tax funding arrives during the month of November, the District must have a beginning fund balance to cover operating costs from July through October. As of June 30, 2018, the total reserve funds balance was $3,189,009.

The Fire Corps and prevention/education volunteers provide a multitude of free services for the community, from blood pressure screenings and CPR/First Aid classes to smoke alarm installations, car seat safety checks, home safety checks, and a host of senior safety programs.

The Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire and Ambulance Association, along with the Cloverdale Fire Department volunteer association, hide 6,000 plastic eggs throughout Creekside Park for the annual Easter egg hunt for children. The volunteers also act as backup EMS personnel and provide an on-site ambulance for the Sisters Rodeo and Sisters High School home football games.

District staff and volunteers provide help with hanging and taking down the quilts for the annual Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. They also staff a centrally located first aid booth in the city during the event.

A Community Assistance Fund has been set up to help members of the community who would endure further hardship without financial assistance. Under this program, employees are allowed to spend up to $100 to provide assistance beyond basic fire suppression and EMS. The fund has been created from non-public funds, including donations made to the District and employee/volunteer contributions. In 2018, a total of 37 individuals/families were helped with a total of $345 in gas/food vouchers and bus tickets.

The District hosts an annual Halloween event including a haunted house along with many other activities for children and their families. Many District volunteers help make this event a success. In addition, it provides an opportunity to educate the public about fire safety.

The Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire and Ambulance Association and the Sisters Kiwanis Club sponsor the annual “Spirit of Christmas Giving Tree” program, providing Christmas gifts to families in need in Sisters Country over the holiday season. It takes many volunteers and donations to make the program a success. In 2018, 156 children received donated gifts with a value of over $7,800. In addition, $3,290 in cash donations were made for this program.

The Association hosts a community Christmas dinner on Christmas Day every year, serving over 126 people. Volunteers do all the shopping, preparation, serving, and cleaning up. Every Christmas season the District fire station is decked out with lights and music in the spirit of the season.


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