Keizer Fire Chief Jeff Cowan

Keizer Fire Chief Jeff Cowan

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Things have been a bit busy lately at the Keizer Fire District.

Fire chief Jeff Cowan gave a brief report on his department’s activity and future plans during the March 19 Greater Gubser Neighborhood Association meeting.

For example, Cowan told of how the KFD has used funding from the five-year tax levy approved in November 2013 by voters.The KFD has hired four additional firefighters and medics thanks to the levy’s tax rate of $.59 per $1,000 in assessed value, which means there is a full second shift.

That extra personnel has been helpful, especially lately.

Call volume increased 3 percent last year and has continued to climb.

“Some days in January and February we had 24 calls for service in 24 hours,” Cowan said. “Our calls have been up 8 percent in the first quarter this year. The 24 calls in 24 hours has already happened a couple of times. Normally we get 12 calls a day.”

Medics and firefighters bring both fire engines and ambulances to calls, which means there is enough personnel to help with carrying patients and any necessary gear. It also means an engine can
quickly respond to another call at a moment’s notice, which was seen when there were 24 calls in a day.

“That day, the engine never went back to the station,” Cowan said.

Cowan also spent time talking about two upcoming elections: the fire board in May and a proposed bond levy for the fall.

Three fire board seats are open in May, with a total of five candidates having filed by last week’s deadline. James Mulhern and Chet Patterson are competing for the Position 3 seat, while former Keizer City Councilor Jim Taylor is going against Betty Hart – the wife of former board member Mike Hart – for the Position 5 seat. Mike Bauer is running unopposed for the Position 4 seat.

“I’ll have three positions open and they’re all good candidates,” Cowan said. “Three of them now are from the budget committee. When Mike Hart resigned (due to health concerns in December), then people noticed the seats.”

Cowan gave an update on the fall election, when the KFD is expected to run a new bond levy.

“Our citizen advisory committee has talked about the bond rate and is okay with 14 cents (per $1,000 of assessed value),” Cowan said. “Right now the rate is $.11, but it has been as high as $.20. As the assessed value in Keizer goes up, the rate you pay goes down.”

Cowan reminded GGNA members about preparing for disasters and how the Keizer CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) is part of the KFD’s emergency plan.

“CERT has 17 zones in Keizer, each with a block captain,” Cowan said. “What people need to do is be prepared for seven days with no assistance. When we’re talking about a disaster of that pro- portion, firefighters won’t be available since they will be absorbed in the disaster.”

Among Cowan’s tips: not waiting until the last minute to refill medical prescriptions and having enough drinking water.

“Water is one of the most difficult deals,” Cowan said. “Having a case of water in the garage is a really good idea. Buy a couple of cases of water, keep them in the garage and rotate them out.”