The Lorane Rural Fire Protection District: Keeping Our Community Safe and Solvent

The Lorane Rural Fire Protection District (RFPD) has recently announced the purchase of two new vehicles that will be serving the residents of Lorane and the surrounding area in emergencies. What’s even better is the fact that both trucks were purchased using capital reserves that were built up by prudent management. Despite overseeing a small district, Fire Chief, Tom Soward, Assistant Fire Chief, Jim Bailor, and the Board of Directors—President Berneda McDonald, Gary Lutman, Bob Drullinger, Jeri Porter, and Martin McClure—take pride in understanding their tax base—the wishes of their patrons—and were able to make the purchase of the trucks and cover the cost of outfitting them without asking for more monies from taxes.

#2518, the Wildland Ford F-350 Rescue rig

The new vehicles include a Wildland 2020 Ford F-350 rescue vehicle and a Wildland 2020 Ford F-450 brush rig with a cab chassis.

Number 2518, the F-350 rescue vehicle, with its club cab, can seat four responders comfortably, or five, if necessary, whereas its predecessor could only transport two. It is equipped with a canopy that holds medical supplies for the EMTs and other equipment that might be needed for car wrecks and medical responses.

#2513: The Wildland Ford F-450 Brush rig

Number 2513, the F-450 brush rig, is designed to be used for brush fires and has a hose reel that can be used for fires close to the road. It carries hoses, pumping equipment and a 300-gallon water tank on board.

Asst. Chief Jim Bailor has done most of the research, design and purchase work for the trucks, and the company that put together the rigs is going to name the designs of each “the Lorane Model” and will share them with other fire districts.

Besides the two new trucks, the Lorane RFPD bought a brand new, state-of-the-art vehicle extraction tool that can be used with motor vehicle accidents. According to board member, Martin McClure, it cuts vehicles up “super quick and quietly” compared to the tools they have used in the past. This vehicle extraction tool is battery-operated, so it can be grabbed off the truck and immediately put to work. There is no longer a need to hook it up and get it operational. It’s ready to go when someone needs to be extracted from a crushed vehicle.

With the addition of the new trucks, the Lorane RFPD fleet now includes seven vehicles—2 structure fire engines; 1 tender with a 3,000 gallon water tank; 1 command vehicle; and a second rescue rig. Of the two fire engines used for structure fires, the oldest is their dependable 20-year-old truck that was bought new. It carries a 1,000 gallon water tank to supplement the tender; the other was obtained from the Sheldon fire station in Eugene. Although used, it still had low mileage on it and will serve the district for many more years with its 500 gallon water tank.

The Lorane RFPD Board of Directors admiring their new rescue rig. (from left to right) Fire Cheif Tom Soward; Asst. Fire Chief Jim Bailor; President Berneda McDonald; Board Members, Bob Drullinger and Jeri Porter. Board Member Martin McClure took the photo and Gary Lutman was not on site.

The Lorane Fire Department averages about 100 fire and medical calls per year. Bailor estimated that 80% to 85% are for medical reasons; 10% are for motor vehicle accidents; and 5% to 10% are for fire calls. The department also provides mutual aid support to the South Lane Fire District (which includes Cottage Grove and Creswell) and the Lane Fire Authority which is currently made up of 16 fire stations that cover a service area of 282 square miles west, northwest, and southwest of Eugene, including the Fern Ridge area.

Lorane RFPD frequently joins with the Crow, Lorane Highway and the South Lane stations to train together in search and rescue, fire-fighting techniques and water shuttle exercises, among others. The water shuttle exercises take place at a pond on King Estate Winery property, north of Lorane, which supplies much of the water needed for emergency use.
The South Lane Fire District provides ambulance service for the Lorane area south of King Estate Winery. Any paramedic needs north of King Estate are handled by the Lane Fire Authority.

The Lorane RFPD currently has 2 paid staff members and 16 volunteers. As with most fire districts, volunteer recruits are always needed. They receive training and, once certified, they are put on call to respond to emergency situations, 24 hours a day. Lorane has had a long and rich history of volunteers dating from when the Lorane Volunteer Fire and Emergency Group was founded in June 1973.

In my book, From Sawdust and Cider to Wine (2006), I included a history of the Lorane Fire Department and the following is the portion dealing with the volunteers:

“The majority of Lorane Fire Department’s firefighters are volunteers. The only paid positions are the Fire Chief, the Assistant Chief and the accountant. Over half of the volunteers have emergency medical training as first responders, EMT or higher. The district tries to maintain between 15 to 20 volunteers, but the number fluctuates frequently due to people moving or conflicts with school, jobs or lifestyles. One of the programs that the Lorane department offers to pique the interest of future volunteers is a cadet program for 15-year olds. The cadets do not fight fires or respond to calls, but they do train with the firefighters. They learn the skills for fighting fires and rescues and once they turn 16, they can then begin participating officially.

“Lorane’s firefighters hold regular jobs or are students in high school or college. The reasons they volunteer cover a lot of territory. Most do it out of their desire to contribute to the community. In doing so, they know that they are helping others. Fighting fires and responding to medical or accident calls can also provide some with a needed “adventure-quotient.” These volunteers not only give to others, but gain much for themselves, as well, in the form of self-respect.

“Working alongside others with the same skills and objectives can also forge lifelong friendships. The volunteers’ dedication is evident by the many hours that each person spends in training and honing their skills.

Firefighters generally train two hours a week, and many train 150 hours a year. Trying to keep a full staff of volunteers from a rural community is a challenging task, so new volunteers are constantly being sought.”

Besides the cadet program for 15-year-olds, mentioned above, various larger fire districts in mostly urban areas, offer a residence program for certified volunteer firefighters and EMTs who are attending LCC’s paramedic program. They are offered free residence in dormitories that are set up at the station while they attend class and volunteer in the fire district. Lorane RFPD does not have a resident program, but it encourages high school students who are interested in a career as a paramedic or fire-fighter to enter the cadet program and serve their communities as many have done before them.

“In 1982, the Lorane community approved the establishment of a fire district by a vote of 125 to 56. The Lorane Rural Fire Department at that time covered 12-square miles and approximately 650 people in 218 dwellings. Shortly after the levy was approved, the Fire Board installed Joe Brewer as Chief and Bruce McDonald as Asst. Chief.

“At the time the district was established, it lowered the fire insurance rates in the district considerably. With the acquisition of more and better equipment, the insurance rate fell even more in 1985.

“The original fire hall was built entirely from volunteer help and donated materials, using no tax monies whatsoever. Bohemia and other local lumber companies donated the materials and cash, and the equipment was donated by Western Lane Forestry and Weyerhaeuser Co. The new building even housed a training center.”

We—the residents of Lorane—have much to be proud of in our fire department, its staff and volunteers. They are friends and neighbors, who care enough about our community to dedicate time and energy to our safety.

We owe them a debt of thanks and recognition for all that they do.

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