The Canby, Aurora and Woodburn fire districts have joined forces to welcome former state fire marshal Jim Walker to serve as a joint fire and life safety inspector.
Walker is filling a new fire inspector position that has been jointly funded under an interagency agreement between the three fire districts.
Walker will focus on the completion of fire and life safety inspections at commercial businesses and multifamily residential structures in all three districts, which also includes the cities of Gervais, Barlow and the Aurora State Airport.
Under the terms of the agreement, Walker will spend 40% of his time in both Canby and Woodburn and 20% in Aurora. The new position will allow the current fire marshals at each district to devote more time to new development plans review and inspections at critical infrastructure facilities in their districts, including schools, nursing homes and large industrial complexes.
“Jim Walker brings with him a plethora of experience and the ability to work with people,” said Canby Fire Chief Jim Davis. “Canby Fire District is experiencing significant growth in the industrial area, mixed in with a very robust downtown area. Jim Walker will be working with Division Chief Matt English who is the chief in-charge of community risk reduction.”
English said he is looking forward to having Walker on board to help with the engine company inspection program that the fire districts are developing that uses the 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.”
Walker began his fire service career as a wildland firefighter in 1981. He has served at both local and state levels, including five years of experience with the Oregon Department of Forestry managing their statewide fire operations.
For the past 11 years, Walker has served at the Office of the State Fire Marshal, where he directed the agency’s fire programs, including code development and enforcement, fire investigation, fire data, collection and analysis, fire safety education and information, and regulations on the fireworks, explosives, propane, and non-retail gasoline dispensing industries.
Walker stepped down as state fire marshal last September after being placed on leave hours after the outbreak of wildfires that burned hundreds of thousands of acres in Clackamas, Marion and Polk counties.
It was later revealed he had been under investigation as to whether he had proper authorization to enter the Beachie Creek wildfire zone to assist in the search for missing people.
Walker said in a press release that he is ready to get started in his new role.
“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 Canby Fire swearing-in ceremony Wednesday.
The shared fire inspector is just one of several intergovernmental agreements that currently exist between fire districts in North Marion and South Clackamas counties in an effort to provide services to the public in the most efficient way possible.
While all of the fire districts have a long tradition of providing mutual-aid in response to fire, medical and other emergencies, in recent years, the collaboration has been expanded to include functions that improve administrative efficiencies such as the sharing of personnel to provide accounting, payroll and human resource services for multiple fire districts.
Other collaborative work between the districts includes the joint operation of a recruit academy for the training of new volunteers and a shared civil service commission that oversees hiring and promotional practices.
This spring, the joint civil service commission will be conducting a recruitment to establish eligibility lists that will be used by five fire districts in the region when hiring new career firefighters and paramedics.
The boards of directors from the fire districts of Canby, Molalla, Colton, Aurora, Woodburn and Hubbard also commissioned a study in 2020 to review the ways that the districts are currently working together and identify additional opportunities to improve efficiency. The new joint fire inspector position is one of the results of that review.
The boards have committed to meeting together regularly to continue the collaborative approach for the delivery of emergency services, and are now considering a possible joint facility that would serve as a training and apparatus maintenance center for many fire districts in the region.
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