6/28/22: Row River Valley Fire District Exploratory Committee

Minutes: June 28, 22,             4:30 PM                                    Submitted by: Reta Cochrane

Purpose: Introduce new members and share information previously gathered regarding the creation of an effective fire suppression system in Row River Valley

Current Members in attendance: Walt Bernard (Dorena), Scott Byler (lower Brice Creek, Diston), Jennifer Ferraez (Dorena), John Kirk (Dorena), Reta Cochrane (near Dorena School)

New Members in attendance: Melanie Cromer (Rat Creek), Beck McCoy (upper Brice Creek, Diston), Brad Haselton (Culp Creek), Karen Proden (Disston)

The conversation indicated a wide variety of experience and interest in fire protection in our area. Members have lived here from 2 years to 37 years. We have representatives representing much of the probable area a fire district would need to cover.

Information concerning immediate fire concerns:

It was discussed that the fire trailers and the 2 fire trucks currently in our valley are like big, useful fire extinguishers. They can and should be used to put out small fires, slow the movement of a grass fire, etc.

But liability issues, safety concerns and lack of adequate training are real concerns for fighting a fire on another’s property or in the case of large fast moving fires.

Calling 911 will not get immediate South Lane Fire help unless you have contracted individually with SLFD by paying an annual fee. It will take 20 to 50 minutes for a fire truck to arrive.

The service cannot transfer 911 calls to local volunteers.

For small fires or help while waiting for the SLFD to arrive you must call


Lindsey (Dispatcher): 541-946-1406

Janet (Dispatcher): 541-946-1455

Dan (Big Fire Truck) 541-946-1445

During an emergency, we might be without phone service.

Many owners of the small fire trailers are reluctant to travel to fires because the trailers are not road licensed, and liability concerns.

Anyone can draw water for the river, streams and lake for the use of fire or safety events.

Scott shared what the group has done so far.

Met with representatives from South Lane Fire District, 911 dispatch, Lane County Commission, and Lane County.

Investigated Oregon rural districts to learn steps they took to form, how they got and maintain equipment, etc. None felt they could make it on donations or subscriptions. All were special districts with a tax base.

Walt invited members to join him on a visit to the County assessor office to gather info on a boundary and the area tax assessment value. This information would help decide boundaries and if we could even support a fire department.

Outcome of meetings and research

It seems a Special Fire District is the only viable way to have adequate, sustainable fire protection.

The Oregon Emergency Commission grants monies to help form special districts. This grant can offer up to $50,000 to cover the committee expenses in gathering all the information needed to file for Special Fire District Status and prepare for the ballot.

We need to have a proposal in by August 22, 2022 if we want to move forward this year.

If all goes well, we can put a levy on the ballot in 2023 or 25 (I think I heard we missed the deadline for 2023.) If we proceed, we will need that time, to educate and inform our community, plus gather all necessary information.

Thank you Jennifer for hosting, again. The space and the goodies are wonderful!

Next meeting: July 5, Dorena School 4:30 PM

Dunkel, retired fire chief, now serving as an information and assistance source for those trying to create a special district will be on a zoom call to let all members ask questions and learn what we need to do next. Walt’s discussion with him sounds like George Dunkel is the very person we need to help us at this point.

Mr. Dunkel suggests a group of 10 to 12 representing the entire district and varying points of view is useful in helping this kind of thing happen.

Walt’s report on his discussion with George Dunkel 5-24-22

I met by phone with George Dunkel

He is with the Special District Association of Oregon:   https://www.sdao.com/

His cell contact: 503-369-2050

He is an ex-fire chief (worked at SLFD for a while) 

George called me after John Wooten of the SLFD let him know that we were exploring the possibility of a fire district in the Row River Corridor. He is a great guy and an excellent resource. He works for the SDO whose mission is to provide cost effective efficient public services to the public in Oregon. Their organization is a private nonprofit 501c3.

They created and manage the Special Districts Insurance Trust that manages a self-insured insurance fund for the benefit and protection of the Special District members.


He is willing to help us form a special district if we want to go that route. He said that nearly all of the organizational structures for Fire management go broke or eventually fail if they are 501C3 structure and or volunteer. All of the non-profit or volunteer organizations that he knows of that are successful ran out of funding and created SDFO’d. The only way to ensure success is to ensure sufficient funding and with a fire district that can best be achieved thru a tax funded organization by creating a special district with authority to levy taxes on property improvements which would be collected thru Lane tax collector.


The ORS statute that addresses this is ORS 478 Special Fire District Public Entity and also ORS 190.

 The process is to:

(SDAO will help us for free with this)

Define our boundaries

Plan the facilities and organizational costs (capital and operating)

Go to the Accessors office and look at the district’s taxable improved structures to see if there are enough assets to support the organization

Petition the legislature to put to a vote the tax levy and district formation that we would need to sustain the organization

Funding for the vote expense would have to be secured

To get on the ballot the next opportunity is 2023—it’s odd years so after that 2025 etc.

Set up and run the fire district (infrastructure, operation, staffing, volunteer or paid, training etc.)—in other words we would be a whole organization

Or the organization could contract with South Lane -if our borders met- to provide all the services, staff and hardware which according to John Wooten would be a substantial savings in insurance (I assume we would have insurance thru the SDAO)

Apply for grants for equipment, training and structures Public and Private

Our SD would have the ability to get grants for stuff like funding for defensible space (we could provide funds to individuals to improve fire safety in their homes, and educational meetings, etc.

Our SD would have the ability to levy fines for fire safety violations in our district.

We could have reciprocity services with ODF and SLFD, etc.

SD fire service will enable us to get more insurance options for our properties and the premiums will be 10-5% lower according to George.

George said that the success of ballot measures to form special districts has improved dramatically and the State is pushing counties across Oregon to get uninsured districts to get SD’s in place for fire protection. After the McKenzie, Glide and other fires there is increase public awareness and interest

 On our 4-person organization—He said it was good but a 10-12-member group with people from all the different locations in the proposed district and a wide diversity of opinions is harder for us but will help in the long run for buy in from the greater community when we lobby for a vote.

George is willing to Zoom with us in the near future. He is also willing to come down to the area for a in person visit if we want but that wouldn’t be till August or so. We can discuss this further at our next meeting.

Next meeting: July 5, Dorena School 4:30 PM