Fire District Indicates Forward Trend for Staffing

Christian Whitfield discusses the progress on the Wildland Program. Photo by Sky Chappell

The Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District (SHFAD) revealed positive staffing discussions on the forefront of the fire board meeting Tuesday, June 18.

Scattered throughout the day’s agenda, different items of discussion included indications of new incoming staff, such as new hires, interested recent high school graduates, and volunteers eager to train for the new wildland hand crew positions.

The meeting began with Chief Nick Tyler swearing in a new entry level firefighter and paramedic, Casey Topp. Read more about Topp at sweethomenews.com/casey-topp-sworn-into-shfad/.

After swearing him in, Tyler provided an update on the new wildland program.

“There was some hiccups in the process,” Tyler said. “We were hoping to have a 20-person hand crew hired and going into the fire school next week. That didn’t happen.”

He explained that he didn’t want to commit to hiring the new crew until the funding for it was absolutely guaranteed.

Tyler still continues to be optimistic about this program. The SHFAD still is entering into the program, doing $1.9 million dollars worth of work. Although the district can’t hire the wanted crew this year, they plan to hire that amount of people next year.

“We’re setting the stage, we’re doing some amazing, groundbreaking stuff that nobody’s done,” Tyler said.

The board learned, during this meeting, the district won the proposal of the funds, with a contract following shortly after. The district had the opportunity of sending five volunteers out to the ODF fire school this week so they can be certified in wildland firefighting. These volunteers are attending on their own time.

The district discussed the need for a crew carrier to help carry equipment and personnel. Wildland Fire Division Program Manager Christian Whitfield requested board authority to purchase a vehicle they were considering as an option. This was voted in unanimously.

The district also discussed how their attendance was during the 2024 Jim Bean Safety Fair. This concluded with discussion of five new potential high school graduates who expressed interest in attending the ODF fire school, with one qualifying for the summer school, and the rest qualifying for the fall.

In other business:

  • The board had discussion regarding workman’s comp and its renewal.
  • The board received an election summary about the official results of the recent general obligation bond. Ballot information included: 28,047 votes of the 99,665 registered voters, totaling a turnout of 28.14%. Of the votes casted, 52.09% voted yes, with 47.91% voting no.
    “I want to thank Sweet Home publicly for voting this bond measure in and supporting the fire district in future endeavors,” Tyler commented. “But I also want to recognize that this was a narrow victory. We as an organization have a lot of work to do in proving that we are responsible for that money and improving our PR on the other 47%. So while it’s a victory, I still want to focus on how we can improve for the future.”
  • The board heard an update on the district’s Local Government Investment Pool (LGIP).
  • The budget was accepted for the 2024-25 fiscal year.
  • The board discussed with Randy Whitfield about his contract, and his requests for a raise.
  • Discussion was had about limiting “wall” time.
  • Office Manager Julie Mayfield discussed with the board about ambulance billing.
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