Columbia River Fire and Rescue has welcomed a new fire chief to the agency’s team, Joel Medina.
Medina joined the district on Dec. 21 and was sworn in on Jan. 12. He has worked in the profession for over 26 years, rising to the rank of division chief. With plenty of experience in the field, and a master’s degree in executive management, he said he is proud to have been selected to serve the district.
“Columbia Fire and Rescue is as professional an organization as I have ever been associated with,” Medina said. “That level of professionalism and devotion to duty that exists in this organization is commendable and a credit to the men and women that serve this district.”
His priority as fire chief will be to harness his experience in contribution to the success of the organization, he said. Contributing to the greater good is what led him down his path.
“There is no greater call to duty than to serve for the well-being of those in need,” Medina said. “If my presence and experience can contribute to those ends, then my life’s goals would be fulfilled.”
In accepting the position, Medina relocated from Florida, and said there are similarities among fire service agencies nationwide: “It is the people and their desire to serve that separate the great departments from good ones. Columbia River Fire and Rescue is a great department.”
The differences in the job are minimal, but one example is in terminology, he said. In Florida, his agencies called the paramedic apparatus a rescue truck, but in Columbia County it is called a medical unit. As far as responding to calls? The job is the same no matter where you are, he said.
“A 911 call is a call for help, the same in Oregon as it is in Florida. When it comes to fire— fire is fire,” Medina said. “It’s the process of mitigation and call volume that may carry variables.”
He said CRFR exceeds the standards for tactics and strategies that are prevalent to the fire service on a national level.
“This agency has a long and proud tradition of providing the highest level of service and protection,” he said.
Medina was raised on the south Florida beaches and said the differences between the two states are immeasurable, but that relocating offers a new adventure in exploring this part of the country.
“I am mesmerized and thrilled by the splendor and majesty of the Pacific Northwest,” he said. “Oregon and Columbia County are everything I could hope for, and more.”
He will have to adjust to the cooler winter climate, however.
“In Florida, my children went waterskiing this past Christmas Day,” he said. “That may not be the thing to do during winter in Oregon.”
The change in region also means a reprieve from hurricanes and soaring temperatures; Medina said he likes the weather in Oregon.
“At times Florida can feel like you’re living on the sun with 95% humidity. Down there, hot just feels hotter,” he said. “I’m looking forward to experiencing the four seasons”
CRFR operates three career staffed fire stations and five volunteer staffed stations in Columbia County at St. Helens, Columbia City, Deer Island, Goble, Fernhill, and Rainier.
CRFR staffs three fire stations per day with the number of personnel ranging from 10-15 personnel spread among the district.
According to CRFR Division Chief of Operations Eric Smythe, minimum staffing for the district includes four fire personnel at St. Helens station, two fire personnel at fairgrounds station, and four at the Rainier fire station. Depending on sick leave or vacations this number can increase up to two additional fire personnel on duty during a 24-hour period for a total of 12 personnel.
The EMS only day car is staffed with two EMS personnel 12-hours each day to augment our fire staffing.CRFR has 25 volunteer fire and EMS personnel that respond from six separate stations throughout the district and we are currently seeking additional volunteer members.
Staffing during a 24-hour period includes one to three chief officers, a public information officer, and an EMS compliance specialist that can respond to emergency incidents as well.