The Banks Fire District #13 Headquarters. Photo: Brenda Schaffer
BANKS – Banks Fire District 13 received the 2019 Outstanding Special District Program Award from the Special Districts Association of Oregon (SDAO) for districts with five or fewer full-time employees. Banks Fire operates with about 70 committed volunteer firefighters.
SDAO Executive Director Frank Stratton said the Banks Fire District is being recognized for its creation of a program that receives and installs smoke detectors in homes all over its district, including upgrading those detectors that do not meet current standards.
“They went from house to house installing smoke detectors for people using mainly volunteer firefighters,” Stratton said.
The Outstanding Special District Program Award recognizes innovative projects and programs, outstanding safety, public information, public involvement in a district decision-making process, or other outstanding achievements.
A video SDAO posted to YouTube says the Banks Fire District’s territory, which encompasses 136 square miles in northwest Washington County that includes the communities of Banks, Buxton, and Timber, has a large population of older homes without adequate fire alarm protection, which causes the district to face the dilemma of providing protection for those homes in a cost-effective manner.
Deanna Friedman, executive assistant at Banks Fire District 13, said in 2016 Rodney Linz was the new fire chief and he knew about a program from the Oregon Fire Marshal’s office for smoke detectors. The program provides training to fire districts from the fire marshal’s office in how to properly install smoke detectors and how to administer the program.
“Once you receive that training you then can request smoke detectors from them to install in your district free of charge,” Friedman said. “Once you receive the smoke detectors you have 45 days to get them installed, which involves a multi-faceted approach. (To get the word out) we used a readerboard (in front of the fire department) that we put it on at different times; we sent out flyers; we also were at all community events where we talked about having the smoke-alarm program where we would provide (homes) with them free of charge; we also have social media so we put it on Facebook (and) Twitter.”
She said people would call the fire district and schedule a time for volunteer firefighters to send out crews to complete the installation. Each crew would also talk to the residents, walk through the house, and create an installation plan. The program also helped volunteer firefighters to get to know the district and its residents through face-to-face communication, as well as the layout of each house it visited.
She added that many residents are surprised to learn the number of smoke detectors required in a home.
Linz said the district recently received a call from an elderly woman who participated in the program that was cooking and some smoke went throughout the house triggering her smoke detector.
“She brought up that that’s never happened before because they didn’t have smoke alarms in the house,” Linz said.
Banks Fire Public Information Officer Mitch Ward said the district installed more than 650 free smoke detectors to residential dwellings.
SDAO’s goal, according to its website, is to provide special districts with a “stronger and united voice at the Oregon Legislature,” representing more than 900 special districts throughout Oregon. For more information visit www.sdao.com.
To watch the SDAO video about Banks Fire go online to youtu.be/H-0BygE8khk.