Communities, Front Page, Oakridge/Westfir

Hazeldell Rural Fire District: 20 years and still kickin’ ashes…and fires

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Hazeldell Rural Fire District station on Dead Mountain Road is ready to serve the surrounding rural areas Oakridge Herald photo

By GEORGE CUSTER/Editor/The Herald  —  This December will mark 20 years of existence for the Hazeldell Rural Fire District (RFD). John Milandin, the last remaining member of the original District Board, invited me to The Hazeldell fire station for a tour. While scouting out the station with John, I was also given a history class about the Fire District.

The station is located on two acres of land just off High Prairie Road on the Dead Mountain Road.

Why was Hazeldell started?

Herald photo

I was taken back in time to 2002 when John explained how and why Hazeldell came into existence. John, who still lives on High Prairie Road, told me a that a neighbor’s house had caught fire.  John said “Well, response time from Oakridge, which was not required to respond, was ineffective. The house burned to the ground. The neighbor then approached me and the two of us agreed that we needed a fire station to serve the High Prairie area.”

Neither the U.S. Forest Service nor the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) are responsible for structure fires.

2002 marked the beginning of Hazeldell Rural Fire District (RFD)

That became the start of the process to establish the fire district. The district would come to serve all rural areas outside the city limits of Oakridge. On November 5th, the election resulted in the approval to form the fire district. On December 4, 2002, the district was created, and the first District Board was certified.

Hazeldell was tasked with supplying fire suppression and emergency services to not only the High Prairie, but would also it would cover several rural areas surrounding the City of Oakridge.

The McFarland, Dunning, Hills Creek, and portions of LaDuke Roads were included. Also, the RFD covers the Westridge and Oakridge Municipal Airport areas. All together, the Rural Fire District is responsible for about 22 square miles and approximately 450 structures.

Now came the work of acquiring equipment, personnel, and rolling stock to support the fire district.

Hazeldell’s logo is emblazoned on a fire truck. herald photo

Used trucks were purchased through an equipment pool at low cost

By the beginning of 2004, the Rural Fire District had purchased several trucks. Three water tenders, a utility vehicle turned ambulance, a 2000-gallon pumper engine, and a 1000-gallon wildland pumper truck became part of the inventory. Most all of the initial equipment was purchased with grant funds from various agencies.

An intergovernmental agreement was established with the City of Oakridge. This agreement would provide fire protection until Hazeldell RFD would become self-sufficient. A bookkeeper and attorney were contracted for and training commenced for four new volunteer firefighters.

Hazeldell commenced operations out of the Oakridge Fire Station

Hazeldell RFD initially operated from the Oakridge Fire Department’s facility on Highway 58 in Oakridge. Plans were in the works to secure a location on High Prairie.

I spoke with Gerald (Jerry) Shorey, the first Fire Chief for Hazeldell RFD. He remembers operating out of the Oakridge Fire Station. He told me that this occurred for several years before the station on High Prairie was completed.

Armed with a loan from Siuslaw Bank, Hazeldell acquired the two acres of land where now sits the 3,000 square foot building. Once the land was purchased, it needed to be cleared and prepared for the metal structure.

An original sign depicting the partners who helped make Hazeldell RFD possible. Herald photo

Other facilities on the site

A 10,000-gallon water storage tank sits along one side of the station. A gravel helicopter landing pad sits on the other. A well and septic system provides water and sewer to the building.

I was told that there are currently plans in the works for an addition that would provide sleeping quarters. ODF indicated that they would provide a person at the station during fire season if sleeping quarters were made available.

I found out that the name ‘Hazeldell’ was picked for the rural fire district by Jerry Shorey. He said it was named after the first U.S. Post Office in Oakridge.

John stated that the biggest challenge lies in recruiting and retaining volunteers. He said “young people are busy and have to make a living”.

 

The early stages of construction on the Hazeldell station on High Prairie. Herald photo

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