County, city fire merger on table

The Medford City Council on Thursday announced it will consider consolidating services between Medford Fire-Rescue and Jackson County Fire District No. 3.

The council made it clear that nothing has been set as far as consolidation goes, only that the city will explore what options it has and what the potential benefits and pitfalls involved could be with such an action.

District 3 Chief Dan Petersen and acting Medford Fire-Rescue Chief Gordon Sletmoe attended Thursday's study session meeting with the council.

"We have been doing the same thing for a long, long time," Councilor Chris Corcoran said. "This is thinking outside the box for our region."

Some of the ideas discussed at the meeting included merging some management positions and shared recruitment and training between the two departments.

District 3 held a similar meeting earlier this month that was attended by some Medford City Council members. District 3 agreed that it would begin outlining its ideas for what consolidation would look like, Petersen said.

"It's very early in the process," Petersen said. "We don't even know what something like this would look like at this point."

Petersen said his staff has been told of the possible merger with Medford Fire-Rescue. The agency will begin spreading the word to District 3 residents in the northern portion of the county.

"We are going to use mailers and post things on our website about the process," Petersen said. "We want this to be transparent. The one thing I would emphasize is that we won't enter into something that reduces our current level of service."

Colin Fagan, who is the vice president of District 3's board of directors, said the two agencies already respond to most house and grass fire together.

He noted that the departments oversee a large area of the county that includes the most populace residential areas and business centers.

"We have this artificial border between us and we are not deploying our resources in the most efficient way," Fagan said.

Both agencies have open administration positions, including operations and training chiefs, that if merged could save taxpayers money going forward.

Medford Fire-Rescue has yet to replace former chief Dave Bierwiler, who promptly left the agency earlier this year.

Fagan said the city and District 3 need to work diligently in the coming months to see if they are willing to enter into the agreement.

"We are operating without important positions on both sides and, frankly, it might not be safe to do so," Fagan said.

The council agreed that the fire department would need to start discussing the plan with staff soon.

The idea of cost savings was a reoccurring theme at the meeting.

"I'm really excited by the idea," Councilor John Michaels said. "I would like to see this move forward."

Corcoran said running a fire department is among the most basic necessities provided by government, but it is also an expensive service.

"I can't see how we can go on operating this at such a high cost," Corcoran said.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email

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