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Owen Valley Fire Department could lose majority of firefighters

Posted at 7:02 PM, Dec 26, 2019

SPENCER — Major changes are coming to the Owen Valley Fire Department.

Lt. Joe Frye said the department will lose a majority of its firefighters at the end of the year because the Owen Valley Volunteer Firefighter Incorporated Group could not reach a contract agreement with the Owen Valley Fire Territory Board.

"You're talking guys that are career firemen," Lt. Frye said. "We have a lot of guys that work on career department part-time, you've got college graduates from fire science and public safety. There were some things in the contract that made it almost impossible to sign."

Lt. Frye said they never had a chance to negotiate the terms in that contract. He said the department will lose about 20 volunteers, which could have a major impact on safety in the area.

"We run over 300 calls a year and the majority of those are fires or car accidents, so the safety is definitely going to be a big point here because you are not going to have the manpower as you once did," Lt. Frye said.

Some people who live in the area said they are worried about what the loss of the firefighters could mean.

"Response time, inability to maybe save a life if a life is in jeopardy in a fire or just the personal properties. All those things are important. I mean we need to have out volunteers there and available," Kristi Risk said. "I think it is a little bit concerning. It is a small town, so that is going to have a big impact on our community and we do have several fires around here or each year unfortunately so I think it is pretty important that we keep those volunteers."

Some volunteer firefighters said this will also impact their ability to assist other departments in the county.

An attorney for the Owen Valley Fire Territory Board, which oversees the department, said the contract they offered to the volunteer organization was fair. He said the changes are the first steps toward eventually becoming a department with paid staff.

A full-time chief was recently hired, and they hope to hire two firefighters over the next year. The attorney said it is becoming increasingly difficult to find volunteer firefighters, which makes the change necessary. He is confident some of the volunteers will still respond to fires that happen after the first of the year.