(PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — Canby, Woodburn and Aurora fire districts have jointly hired former state fire marshal Jim Walker as the fire inspector for all three districts.
The fire inspector is a newly created position funded under an interagency agreement between the three districts, which, in addition to the larger cities, include the cities of Gervais, Barlow and the Aurora Airport, according to a news release.
“The new inspector position will have a positive impact on the life safety for those who live, work, and do business in our communities,” said Woodburn and Hubbard Fire Chief Joe Budge.
In the position, Walker will focus on fire and life safety inspections at commercial businesses and multifamily residential structures in the districts. He also will work with Canby Fire Division Chief Matt English in the development of an engine company inspection program that uses state-provided software for fire inspections.
“This program will get our crews into buildings for life safety inspections, which also provides familiarization of the facilities for emergency operations,” English said. “This will help ensure safer and more efficient fire operations.”
The new position will free up current fire marshals at each district to devote more time to new development plans, the release said, and inspections at facilities such as schools, nursing homes and large industrial complexes.
Under the agreement, Walker will spend 40% of his time in Canby, 40% in Woodburn and 20% in Aurora.
Walker began his fire service career in 1981 as a wildland firefighter. He has served at the local and state levels, including five years with the Oregon Department of Forestry, managing their statewide fire operations.
For the past 11 years, Walker served at the Office of the State Fire Marshal, and since 2014, he was the state fire marshal — the state’s top fire official. He directed the agency’s fire programs including code development and enforcement; fire investigation; fire data, collection and analysis; fire-setter intervention and more.
He has extensive experience in all-hazard incident response and is a qualified Type 1 incident commander with a passion for community risk reduction, training and fire prevention, according to the release.
“Jim Walker brings with him a plethora of experience and the ability to work with people,” said Canby Fire Chief Jim Davis, noting that Walker will be particularly helpful as Canby Fire District is experiencing significant growth.
Walker resigned as state fire marshal in September 2020.
He now looks to move forward in his new position.
“I am excited about the opportunity to build a program that will serve all three districts in a way that will make a real difference in the safety of the communities that we serve,” Walker said at his swearing-in ceremony Wednesday, Feb. 24.
Fire departments combine efforts
The new shared staff position is just one example of the increasing partnerships among North Marion and South Clackamas county fire departments to provide services to the public in the most efficient way possible, per the news release.
Fire districts have a longstanding tradition of providing mutual aid in emergencies, but in recent years, joint efforts have expanded.
Several fire districts now share personnel to provide accounting, payroll and human resources services. Districts run a joint recruiting academy to train new volunteers and share a civil service commission that oversees hiring and promotional practices.
This collaboration has not only contributed to efficiency, per the release, but it also has resulted in a larger and more qualified candidate pool from which to select recruits.
In 2020, the boards of directors from Canby, Molalla, Colton, Aurora, Woodburn and Hubbard fire districts commissioned a study to review the ways that the districts were working together and to identify additional opportunities to improve efficiency. The new fire inspector position was one of the results of that review.
Going forward, the departments are dedicated to continuing to meet and collaborate on the delivery of emergency services. Districts currently are considering the development of a joint facility to serve as a training and apparatus maintenance center for many fire districts in the region.