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Woodburn Fire District Marshal rolls out a plan to bring safety inspections up to date

Fire-safety inspections for buildings housing area businesses are underway in Woodburn Fire District. And while those inspections will ultimately lead to safer environs, the full fruition of the project may be a half decade away.WOODBURN FIRE DISTRICT - Woodburn Fire District logo

WFD Marshal James Gibbs said what he hoped would be a three-year project expanded into an estimated five-year one, largely due to a lapse in inspections over previous years. Consequently, he divvied up the work to be done, categorizing some of it by city wards, and adjusted the project timeline accordingly.

Speaking to the Woodburn City Council on Monday, June 24, Gibbs said some buildings requiring licensing through the Department of Health Services, such as schools or assisted-living facilities, are regularly inspected by law. Others may have gone uninspected for long periods.

"Some of them have been years or decades since they've had an inspection. It showed when I started doing the inspections because there were a lot of issues," Gibbs said.

Once all buildings have been inspected, WFD will have an ongoing system installed for regular inspections. Those will come at either 1, 2, or 3-year intervals, depending on "the criticality and complexity of the business' operation, community exposure and/or how it would negatively affect the community," Gibbs noted.

So structures that are potentially more hazardous will undergo annual inspections, while those deemed less so will be inspected every second or third year.

Buildings within the city of Woodburn will get first attention, while other buildings outside of town and in Gervais but within the district will follow.

"This modified plan is anticipated to take 5 years, with the first three years mainly focusing on the city of Woodburn," Gibbs noted.

The Marshal itemized the number of commercial structures listed by city council wards: Ward 1, 146; Ward 2, 94; Ward 3, 144; Ward 4, 55, Ward 5, 60; Ward 6, 117.

In addition to the inspections, the project includes developing an inclusive pre-fire plan for all emergency responders.

Gibbs, who formerly worked as a fire marshal at Arizona State University, told the council that he was delighted working with Woodburn residents, who he described as more amenable to the process than college professors.

"It's been so easy to work with everybody, and everybody was willing to do the right thing," Gibbs said.

Woodburn City Manager Scott Derickson added that the fire district and city have traditionally maintained an amicable working relationship.

"In a lot of cities there is a lot of turf (issues)," Derickson said. "This is kind of a turf free community."


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