|Resident program makes positive impact in Government Camp posted on 11/01/2020|
Dawson Kooch, Brandon Bergeron, Matt Garcia and Lucas
Staples have been thrown into the fire – figuratively speaking – in their early
days with the Hoodland Fire District’s (HFD) resident program in Government
Camp. The four live in the recently renovated fire station while serving as the
first responders around Government Camp, meaning they may have to wait 20
minutes before other responders arrive on the scene.
“Having that station staffed has been wonderful,” HFD
interim chief Steven Abel said. “They’re absolutely energetic. I’m glad we have
competent people up there.”
For example, Abel noted, Dawson responded to a motorcycle
accident in September and was able to get a helicopter from the Life Flight
Network on its way to help before any other responders arrived.
“A lot can happen in 20 minutes,” said Kooch, a 20-year-old
who grew up in Damascus and has been at the station for three months. “It’s a
lot to take in. A lot of big decisions need to be made.”
There was also the cardiac arrest patient up at Timberline,
the head-on collision on Hwy. 26 involving a semi-truck and multiple other
vehicles at 4 a.m. and the RV fire.
“That was a new experience for me,” said Bergeron, also 20,
who grew up in Sandy and has been at the station for two months. “Rolling up on
that was like, ‘Whoa. This (RV) is ripping.’”
The group lives at the station, performing normal chores,
training and maintaining a professional atmosphere, while also looking to build
a career in the fire service. Garcia is a paramedic intern, Kooch and Staples
take an Emergency Medical Technician course through Mount Hood Community
College, while Bergeron works a part-time job at the Mt. Hood Athletic Club in
“Days that just one of us are here, those are the most
exciting days,” Kooch said.
Staples is the newest addition, starting at the station in
early October. The 21-year-old Sandy High School graduate noted he had met
Kooch while at the district’s academy and had met Bergeron at the gym, has
found the early experiences of living and working together to be enjoyable.
“It’s honestly been great,” Staples said.
“It’s like a scene out of ‘Step Brothers,’” he added,
referring to the movie starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly.
The residential program, which survived after a similar student
program got cut due to monetary reasons, may make another positive impact on
the community with an updated Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating, which
insurance companies use to help set insurance rates. Abel noted a survey was
recently completed and a new rating is expected.
“I am concerned about ISO ratings, but even more important
is the service (residents of Government Camp) are getting now,” Abel said,
adding that he hopes the higher visibility may attract more local people to
participate in the district.
And the public is starting to take notice. Kooch noted in
his first couple weeks, nobody said anything, but in September somebody stopped
by with some energy drinks for them. And later in the month, the responders
went out on a nighttime call and a resident serenaded them with a chant of
“It was kind of cool,” Bergeron said. “It was nice to feel
Kooch, who met Bergeron for the first time earlier this
year, noted that living at the station means that there’s the possibility of a
tone at any time, signifying the need to respond to a call, keeping them on
“At any point, you never know when someone’s going to need
help,” he said. “It helps the day go by quicker, that’s for sure.”
By Garth Guibord/MT