Greensprings moves to form fire department

The Greensprings Volunteer Fire & Rescue Department has filed paperwork with the Jackson County district office to become a Rural Fire Department, which would allow the department to apply for state and federal grants.

The Greensprings is an unincorporated community stretching along Highway 66, located about 20 miles east of Ashland. Fires in the area have often been met with slow responses from Ashland Fire & Rescue crews, as well the Oregon Department of Forestry, due to the winding roads and high elevations trucks had to endure before they could reach the blaze.

As a result, members from the unincorporated Greensprings community formed their own volunteer fire department in 2005 to provide first-responder and fire protection to the community. Robert Given was elected board president of the Greensprings Fire & Rescue operation, which currently has a 22-man volunteer force.

Given said the lack of adequate facilities was initially a big hurdle for the department, which utilizes three fire prevention vehicles.

"We needed a fire house," he said. "We had no way to keep our equipment warm for the winters." In the same volunteer spirit that created the department, Greensprings community members responded with a massive fundraising effort, bringing in $95,000 to build their own firehouse in 2008.

"It was great. It just shows the community support for what we're doing," he said.

Given is applying for Rural Fire status to make the department eligible for assistance from the Insurance Services Organization, which offers savings packages to departments that demonstrate a sustained level of fire preparedness.

He submitted the rural department application after collecting signatures from more than 50 homeowners in the area. Assuming the county grants the license, those homes will fall under Greensprings Fire & Rescue jurisdiction.

Given said around 300 households are scattered around the Greensprings region, which includes the Hyatt Lake and Howard Prairie Lake areas. Greensprings Fire & Rescue's coverage area is non-contiguous — meaning properties under their jurisdiction may lie adjacent to homes not yet under jurisdiction.

But he says all properties within the area will receive emergency fire and medical response, free of charge, whether they signed on or not.

"We are doing this on the premise that we will provide free, equal services to everybody within our described boundaries," Given said. "We have no authority to tax any of the landowners within the rural fire district, and rely solely and charitable contributions.

The volunteer Greensprings Fire & Rescue crew is certified in first response fire services and medical supervision, and functions as a primary support unit to Ashland Fire & Rescue and ODF.

"If there's a fire, we keep it from going into the wild lands, and hopefully keep the wild lands from growing onto individual properties," Given said.

The volunteer department has done a lot of growing, since a small community decided it was in its interest to handle fires burning closer to home almost five years ago.

Greensprings Fire & Rescue will hold its First Annual Harvest Dance, Oct. 24 at the Greensprings firehouse. Given says besides being a chance to raise additional funds, the dance will allow officials to thank those people who supported them through their growth, and whose donations helped to build their department.

"Our community has been great. They have really come together with support for what we're trying to do," Given said. "For a community that does not have a lot of money, they've provided a lot of financial support, and now it's up to us to prove ourselves to them."

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