Lake Oswego Fire Department and our climate crisis
As the global climate crisis roars into our own community the question is: Are we listening to our emergency response experts to ensure we have the very best teams in place to serve our community?
We value Lake Oswego Fire Department (LOFD) and regard their service as one of the essential public services. Currently, six of our firefighters have been displaced from their homes due to evacuation with some of those returning to the frontlines, in spite of their own personal loss. But then they do this all the time, putting in erratic hours, experiencing stress from inhuman "time to tasks" and always being exposed to life-shortening carcinogens. All they do is good deeds for us.
We need not look far to see Lake Oswego is not immune to urban and wildland fire catastrophes. Places like Tryon Creek area, Cooks Butte, Luscher Farm, Dunthorpe, and Mountain Park can each become major fire events that threaten lives and property if we do not keep our firefighting force fully staffed, trained, equipped, and able to respond instantaneously.
But they are being fiscally undermined. The City, Fire Chief, and behind the scenes budget hawks are mulling over a proposal to have our Westlake Fire Station transport via ambulance and to pull an active fire engine out of service for an average of 26% of the day from the area it protects. This change in model, if enacted, will be without community input, reference to data and facts around response times and community need that will increase the likelihood of firefighter injury, and will decrease service levels and response time for our citizens. Under this proposal, Lake Oswego would need to rely on Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue and Portland Fire if multiple events were going on.
And why pull an engine apparatus out of service? To have the fire department generate revenue to run its own department. This seems part of the "starve the beast" strategy awhile back when other city departments got a 3.3% raise, the police got a 5.8% raise and the fire got 1.8%. It also seems in accord with the "glide path" notion to reduce staffing and shut down a station. Putting fire behind the budget 8-ball makes the transport idea a feasible side hustle.
We beg to differ. The only fair response to the deficit is for the City to reinstate those withheld funds.
Further, should the Fire Chief continue to press this transport model within the Westlake Fire Station, LOFD would be the ONLY department in the metro area to staff this particular revenue-generating service via a reduction in-service model. This methodology should concern all of us because it is scientifically proven to be dangerous to everyone, especially our firefighters. Only fully staffed units, paying our essential workforce and emergency responders what they're worth, and using science, data, and best practices to ensure the well-being of our fire department and the community as a whole.
We have all seen it takes people to mitigate large scale emergencies. Any reduction puts the citizens at risk. We believe the citizens of LO deserve nothing less than the best.
Melissa Fireside is a candidate for Lake Oswego Council and Theresa M. Kohlhoff is a Lake Oswego Councilor and candidate for Mayor.
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