A proposal to build the Treven Anspach Memorial Fire Station will be presented to the Umpqua Community College board of education at its 4:30 p.m. Wednesday meeting by representatives of Douglas County Fire District No. 2 and the college’s fire science program.
“Our goal is to try and get people to come here to go to school, and then want to stay here,” said Fire Chief Rob Bullock said about the proposed resident fire station.
Umpqua Community College already offers an associate degree in fire science, which also provides students with the first two years of a four-year degree in fire science administration from Western Oregon University or Eastern Oregon University.
Enrollment in the program has gone up and down throughout the years, according to Bullock. He added that it has plummeted in the last few years, as has the number of job applicants for firefighting positions.
Umpqua Community College spokesperson Tiffany Coleman said she could not respond to questions from The News-Review until after the board meeting. The college could not say how many people were currently enrolled in the program.
The plan to get a resident fire station has been talked about for years, but never really set into motion until just before the pandemic. Then with shutdowns, work was delayed. Now, Bullock is excited to restart the conversation with the community college.
“I think this is that shot in the arm that their program needs to solidify and be a solid program,” Bullock said. “I mean, they’ve got a huge nursing program that’s well respected and I think this here can give them a second program that can be an attractor for the college.”
Board approval is needed Wednesday to move forward with the project that is roughly estimated to cost around $4.5 million.
“Neither one of the organizations, the college nor us, can afford to build this on our own,” Bullock said. “We’re going to be looking for grants and reaching out to community members for support.”
Bullock said that Chemeketa Community College in Salem has had a resident fire station for many years and they have had waitlists of students hoping to get in.
“UCC has struggled to get a full class,” Bullock said. “I think one of the challenges is, ‘How do you compete with somebody’s who’s got this.’ And then for us, locally, since the UCC tragedy we’ve struggled to get anybody to apply. We used to have 80 to 100 people apply, now we’re lucky if we get 15.”
Bullock said there are hundreds of job openings for firefighters each year in the state. But in the last two years, Douglas County Fire District No. 2 has struggled to fill 14 positions. The majority of firefighters at Douglas County Fire District No. 2 have gone through Umpqua Community College at some point, according to Bullock.
While the project is still in a planning phase, Bullock hopes to name the fire station for Treven Anspach. Anspach died in the Oct. 1, 2015, UCC mass shooting. He was a student at Umpqua Community College and the son of a firefighter.
Bullock said he talked to the family about his proposal and they are very supportive.
“This station, it’s our station four. Treven’s number in basketball was four,” Bullock said. “His parents, they just started telling me all the ties that are there, and it was ‘OK, this is meant to be.’”
The fire station would replace the station at the corner of Highway 99 and Umpqua College Road, which serves the college. The station is about a mile from campus, along Interstate 5 and next door to the Oregon State Police.
Initial concepts include two bays on the north side that will be used by students with several different pieces of equipment, as well as a resident program that will allow for recruitment from various places.
“This doesn’t just benefit the fire science program,” Bullock said. “It also benefits the paramedic program, because they’re tied hand-in-hand. Everybody we hire needs to be a paramedic.”
The middle of the center has been designated for the administrative office for the fire district, in the concept drawings. There will be a classroom, conference room and workout facility.
And the upgraded fire station’s south bays will serve as the new home for the Winchester crew.
Bullock said at other colleges with resident fire stations for students, the students become resident volunteers for the agencies around them which will benefit the community as a whole.
If the board gives approval to move forward, the next step would be to start fundraising.