The local fire department has historically had a support group of community volunteers since they first organized the fire group in 1882.
Recently, a similar group could be seen at the local Chili Cook-off — a yearly tradition that is sponsored by Crook County Fire and Rescue, City of Prineville Police, and the Crook County Sheriff's Office. This fun community event draws participation from all over the community, and this year the continuity of the event was made possible through the volunteers of the Prineville Volunteer Fire Company. When the members of CCFR responded to a local fire during the event, the volunteers stepped in and kept it going.
In 2013, a support group was established under a 501(c) 3 to render support services to Crook County Fire and Rescue. The vision of the group was to provide assistance in areas of antique restoration, firefighting safety, public education and community involvement.
Ray Austin, president of the Prineville Volunteer Fire Company, is also an EMT and firefighter for CCFR. He indicated that they bring non-operational people in to help with larger incidents. Examples include lunches and dinners on a fire line. They also do fundraisers to raise money to restore the antique equipment.
"Some of those things are very expensive. Last year, we did the wheels on the Rumsey hand pumper, and it cost about $2,200 to have those built," said Austin.
He added that it is good to have a bank of people to draw from to do activities who aren't already on fire lines and who are readily available. These activities may include washing hose, answering phones, or running things back and forth or staging equipment. It could also include stepping in when firefighters and paramedics are called unexpectedly, like in the case of the annual Chili Cook-off.
"We started out as a volunteer fire department, and there were a lot of people available to do those kinds of things, but as the economy and jobs and requirements to be a volunteer have changed over time, it's much tougher to get those people and the training level they need to be to respond," added Austin.
He said it's oftentimes easier to recruit individuals who are interested in supporting the fire service, but not necessarily in a position in life where they can be a responder but still want to help out in their community.
Members must be at least 18 years of age, must pass a background check, and have an interview with a panel of the group. He said as non-operational volunteers, Prineville Volunteer Fire Company members don't respond to emergency incidents. Currently, there are approximately 25 members in the Prineville Volunteer Fire Company.
Battalion Chief and Fire Marshal for Crook County Fire and Rescue Russ Deboodt also acts as a liaison between CCFR and the Prineville Volunteer Fire Company.
"Nonoperational means they are completely separate from any response," emphasized Deboodt.
"Anything that we do is for the benefit of the community — such as community education, time in the park, time at the fair, fundraisers, parades — and anything to promote the Prineville Volunteer Fire Company and the history and antiques that we have here at the fire district."
He added that they have a presence in most community events, including Crook County Chamber events such as all parades and the annual Easter Egg Hunt.
"All those sorts of things where we have a presence, is something they (potential volunteers) could participate in. Certainly, many people may just be interested in restoring old antiques and that sort of thing. It's a great opportunity for them, because we do have such a great array of antique fire apparatus."
Deboodt said that CCFR has a long-standing partnership with the Bowman Museum. "Often times, some of our artifacts are over there."
Over the last several months, the Rumsey hand pumper was on display at the museum. Deboodt also indicated that Gordon Gillespie and his crew are a valuable resource to offer expert advice on how to restore important artifacts such as those that have been part of Prineville fire history.
"How do you restore something, and how do you preserve it for a long time," Deboodt explained as part of the partnership between the agencies. "What are the things we need to do in order to make sure we are treating and displaying our history the best that we can?"
"We are very proud of our history," stressed Austin. "We have the largest collection of antiques this side of Willamette Valley. We were the first fire department in Central Oregon."
Austin reinforced that it is common for fire departments to have a volunteer or support organization or non-operational support group. Having the 501(c)3 provides an avenue for community members who wish to make donations to the Prineville Volunteer Fire Company on behalf of the fire department or a loved one, and provide an avenue to accept those donations and provide a receipt for them.
Deboodt said that they are always looking for new members for the Prineville Volunteer Fire Company.
"I want to stress to the community that it's a great group to be part of, and we are always looking for more great people to join us."
"We would like to thank the people who have supported us so far," concluded Austin.
Prineville Volunteer Fire Company
Established in 2013: 501(c) 3
Mission: "To render services to Crook County Fire and Rescue, other emergency organizations in Crook County and to assist our community in the capacity for which we are trained."
Contact: Ray Austin, President: 541-447-5011 or Russ Deboodt, CCFR Battalion Chief/Fire Marshal for CCFR: 541-447-5011.