Letters Responding to the Firing of Chief

October 9, 2014

I attended the meeting of the Mosier Fire District tonight in which the board fired the chief and I am absolutely appalled.

For the board to take this action shows a disregard for the good of the district, the safety of the volunteers, and a disconnection from the realities of the department.

In just a few years as chief, Jim Appleton has taken the Mosier volunteers from almost nothing to a medically competent EMS organization. And well on the way to a competent rural firefighting department.

And with 80% of the calls being medical, that is the correct priority. With a district of only 1400 people spread over 22 square miles, it’s no small thing to find a dozen people willing to spend the over 200 unpaid hours it takes to get trained and certified as EMTs (with 5 currently spending an additional 400 hours to be certified as Advanced EMTs) – all to give us the best chance of getting to someone quickly in an emergency.

And in that same time Jim has recruited and trained a core group of firefighters who have demonstrated enough competence to recently improve the ISO rating for the district to its lowest rating in years (which saves the entire community a lot on property insurance).

When explaining his decision tonight, LeeRoy Herman, a district board member said:
“We managed perfectly well for years without spending any money. The town didn’t burn down. We never lost a firefighter.”

The voters in the 2010 election to create the new district and give it a budget disagreed with that assertion. They saw the microwave fire cresting the hills beside Mosier. They heard that the department’s equipment was decrepit. They understood that the training was ad-hoc. And they voted to make a change.

Unfortunately, the fire board does not agree with the public – with the exception of the board’s president, Darin Molesworth and Glenn Bartholomew (who promptly announced his resignation).

In closing, I would ask the board to consider where they are going to find a replacement within 30 days who is:
Qualified to respond as a firefighter and EMT
Willing to respond 24 hours a day from Mosier
And is happy to do this for $18,000 a year

I strongly urge the board to reconsider their decision.

Charles Young
Mosier, Oregon

To whom it may concern,

I have lived in Mosier now for 15 years. I moved from a volatile political climate in Summit County, CO, where I found myself constantly attending meetings, questioning developments, fighting for our downstream water rights, etc. When I moved here, I was tired and didn’t want to become involved. I have selfishly succeeded in this goal, up until today.

When I read about the firing of Chief Appleton by the Mosier Fire Board, I was frankly unable to breath. I only know Jim through work and social gatherings, and we are friendly acquaintances. We are not close friends and this is not a letter coming to the defense of a friend. This is a letter coming to the defense of a community.

I cannot count how many times I have said in passing to a friend that “I can’t believe how dedicated Jim is to his job.” I truly believe that he has become the most responsible member of our community. I know lots of us do lots of things, and I don’t want to take anything away from other’s great contributions. But who is there night and day, on call, and putting in the hours that Chief Appleton has? The board’s arguments against the chief , which Charles Young outlined in his outraged letter to the community, sound absurd. Regarding his small salary, we VOTED to pay someone that salary, so it cannot be used as an excuse to fire him. Regardless, our return on the investment is fantastic. The fact that the chief is driving around in a fire truck keeping an eye on things…I believe that’s called “working,” going the extra mile, and I and every other person I have talked to applauds Chief Appleton for his tireless service in this regard.

The bottom line for me is this: I feel more in danger from fire and medical problems today than I did before today. Why should that have to be? The EMS program that Chief Appleton has promoted is the next best thing to having our own hospital here in Mosier. So many members of our community have been served by that, and all indications are that this program is getting better and better. Chief Appleton is almost always the first responder. That alone is worth more than the chief’s salary to me. Sadly, what might happen now is that a bunch previously dedicated volunteers will sour to the job and quit. I wouldn’t blame them if this is the thanks one gets for tireless effort. This is why I feel more in danger. And above all is this question: who could we possibly find that would do a better job for us?

I felt GREAT knowing that we as a community had made an excellent decision in hiring and paying for Chief Jim Appleton to serve and protect us. Something must be done to preserve that and not let the voices of three people misrepresent and endanger our homes and lives. Whatever can be done, I will join others I’m sure in helping make it so.

Rusty Lewis, Riverside St.
Mosier Oregon

 

To: Mosier Fire District Board
From: Pete Wright, Deputy Chief Mosier Fire

Board Members,
Due to illness I was unable to attend the recent board meeting. For that meeting I had asked that I be place on the agenda for time speak to you all for direction as a member of the Capital Advisary Committee. This committee was asked to be formed to serve at the pleasure of the board to produce a comprehensive plan for apparatus replacement and a new fire station. We have spent many hours of volunteered time on this request over the last year. My concern is the seeming disinterest in the report that was presented to the board at the June board meeting. This report to my knowledge has not officially been discussed at the subscequent board meetings. I feel that the board is not acting in a responsible way towards the district taxpayers. They voted in a rather large tax increase to greatly improve emergency services. Apparatus and fire station upgrade is a very essential part of that improvement.
In previous board meetings I have witnessed very unprofessional behavior from some of the board members toward Chief Appleton. This type of behavior should sound an alarm that we have a real problem with some board members. Their behavior has been counter productive and discouraging to many of the Mosier Volunteers. Now you have terminated our Chiefs contract. This is causing a firestorm of community and volunteer uproar! Chief Appleton has done an outstanding job of bringing our once inadequate department up to a very professional level. What he lacked in experience in the beginning he made up for with great enthusiasm and on the job training. You have invested these past five years in him and now that he is at the present professional level you fire him! I have heard of no glaring wrong doings on his part. All I have heard are very petty and personal complaints from some board members. I know because of the 3-2 vote your actions actions have so discouraged the other 2 that they may resign from the board. I would not blame them!
As a retired 30 year veteran of San Diego Fire I feel I have the expertise to judge Chief Appleton. I have responded on many emergency calls with Chief Appleton. In the beginning, to my surprise, I was quite impressed at how he handled these emergency calls. Were some mistakes made, yes. But over the years he has learned what is needed to competently manage emergency incidents. He has become an experienced Firefighter and EMS person over time. He manages the fire and medical scene quite well. On the administrative side he does an outstanding job that requires countless hours. He puts in far more than the common fourty hour worker. He is management and dedicated to doing whatever it takes do the job. On several occasions it was his quick response and appropriate actions that stopped a small fire from becoming a conflagration. He has also been a huge part of saving several lives and shown great compassion to the residents in the Mosier Fire District. At his present level of experience and knowledge of the district you are making a very poor choice for termination.
The district WILL lose volunteers over this! I will certainly consider resigning my position. I know the Volunteers will never leave the district unprotected but you will severely impact its future growth and progress. I would at this time ask for immediate reinstatement of Chief Appleton. I strongly urge you to do so.

sincerely,
Pete Wright
Deputy Chief, Mosier Fire District

To the Board Members of the Mosier Fire Department,

We are long time Mosier residents. We have just learned of your decision to dismiss Chief Jim Appleton and we are appalled, as are many people in this community at the news of your decision. You have frankly just put many lives at risk. There is no one more competent and dedicated to the task of Mosier Fire Chief as Jim Appleton. We have watched Jim take a barely existent rural volunteer fire department and with passion, determination and many many unpaid or underpaid hours of hard work, create a very functional, top rate, community driven fire and emergency response team who can respond within seconds with trained and skilled EMS and have saved countless lives. We have witnessed first hand Jim Appleton’s dedication to helping and protecting lives. We have watched him leave Christmas dinners and journey out into snow storms to respond to emergencies. We have watched time and time again as Jim Appleton is on the scene before it even becomes a scene, braves life and limb to protect Mosier and it’s community, and is always the last to leave after making sure that all dangers have been averted. Jim is proactive about the management of the lands that pose the largest risk areas to the Mosier Valley and we deeply appreciate and stand behind Jim in those efforts and feel that Mosier residents benefit greatly from his actions. We also know that Jim is deeply connected to the people in this community and has been the one to handle many difficult, traumatic and serious situations in the community and his presence has always had greater meaning given his understanding of the people he is saving, helping and serving. Jim has not only completed hours of important emergency training himself, but has inspired other volunteers to do so as well, thus creating a top rate emergency response team and station. During the course of Jim’s involvement with the Mosier Fire District we have faced some very serious fires that threatened our homes and livelihoods. It is our opinion that we would not have weathered those fires with such little loss if we had not had Jim Appleton in charge. There have also been numerous near disasters which were completely thwarted by the actions of Jim and the dedicated Mosier Volunteer firefighters who all know just how much Jim has given to this community and to this Fire Department. Jim Appleton’s dedication to the responsibilities as Mosier Fire Chief go well beyond the call of duty and it is ludicrous, after the enumerable moments and years of seeing and benefiting from Jim’s commitment, dedication and passion for the health of this community, to think of the board terminating his station as Chief. We cannot envision the Mosier Fire Department without Jim Appleton. We can not believe that after all the years of his intense dedication at the price of incredible personal risk, that Jim be given such a disrespectful expression of gratitude as a dismissal. The comments by Board Members who voted to do so only demonstrate their complete lack of understanding of this community, the threats we have faced, and how much Jim Appleton has accomplished and could accomplish if allowed to continue as Fire Chief.

We are appalled by your decision and implore you to quickly reconsider and reappoint or re-hire Jim Appleton as Mosier Fire Chief.

Kristin Currin & Andrew Merritt

Humble Roots Farm & Nursery, llc
2355 Osburn Cut-Off
Mosier, OR
503 449 3695
Humbleroots@gorge.net

We just read the news that Jim Appleton has been fired from his position as Mosier Fire Chief. Needless to say, we are shocked and extremely upset that this has happened. We have owned our property on Dry Creek Road since 1994, and have lived here full time since 2000. During that time, and prior to Jim’s becoming Fire Chief, we had several occasions to experience first hand the ineffectiveness and incompetence of those individuals who were supposedly in charge of the Mosier Volunteer fire department. When Jim stepped into his position, the change in leadership was immediately apparent in all aspects of the department. He brought a professionalism that was sorely needed to a community whose growth and requirements had surpassed the infrastructure of the past.

Within weeks of his appointment, Jim personally visited most, if not all, homeowners in the area to introduce himself and to acquaint himself with the physical location and attributes of his responsibility. On more than one occasion he has stopped by just to say hello. He has been immediately responsive to phone calls and emails concerning fire issues. Throughout the time that wildfires have been burning in proximity to Mosier, he has posted pertinent and up to the minute information which kept all of us informed. He has kept himself apprised of any and all developments that have taken place on lands surrounding the Mosier Fire district, knowing that such education is a necessary cornerstone in dealing with events that could impact our area in the future.

The wildfires that have threatened the Mosier area in the last few years are not going to stop occurring. Those of us who live here know that fire season now begins earlier and lasts longer than ever before. Thanks to the efforts of Jim Appleton and the volunteers that he has brought together, all Mosier residents can rest assured that our properties and our selves will be protected in the most effective and professional way possible, and to the best of the Fire department’s ability. Jim Appleton has brought expertise, intensity and commitment to our town, and has created a volunteer fire fighting and EMT department that performs up to the standards that a growing area such as ours needs.

Please let us know what we can do to retain Jim Appleton as Fire Chief. To lose him from this position would be a serious mistake for all of us who live in and love Mosier!

Martha Daniels and Patrick Newman
2450 Dry Creek Road
Mosier

 

I too am appalled by this decision. My wife and I live on 25 acres on Dry Creek rd, and it’s not called Dry Creek because it’s lush and green. As a rural resident my concerns are somewhat different from people who live in downtown Mosier. Surrounding us, especially at this time of year, are miles of tinder dry vegetation that only needs a lit cigarette or careless accident to turn into a conflagration. Any wildfire, as we have seen, is made even more unpredictable by the notorious Gorge winds and the unique local terrain. Jim understands our situation through his experience and background and has been able to put this knowledge into practice.

I felt safe and secure knowing Jim was at the helm. Mosier needs his professionalism and experience!

Don’t fire him, give him a raise!

Patrick Newman

Patrick Newman and Martha Daniels
PO Box 472
Mosier, Or 97040
Home 541-288-1228
Cell 541-980-7917

 

Dear Mosier Fire Board

To say that I’m appalled by the firing of our Fire Chief is to put it mildly. Unless I’m missing something, everything that Chief Appleton was accused of such as monitoring a local fire, finally getting a class A uniform, and getting our volunteer fire department to become professional are within his job requirements. Many of us upon hearing these ridiculous charges said that we would gladly pay for his new uniform but I believe that we already have via our taxes. It is pretty much impossible to find someone with such dedication and knowledge of all of our properties. I had no idea that Chief Appleton, who puts in an amazing amount of hours and dedication did this for such a low wage. I also feel appalled that he was treated with such disrespect at the Fire Board meetings. I worked for a government agency for 25 years and saw a lot of power plays and wrong and unjust decisions made but this one takes the cake.

At our last Rocky Prairie Neighborhood dinner Jim was given a totally unplanned standing ovation when he walked in by the appreciative neighbors. It just seemed natural for us to try in some small way to thank this man.

I have two questions. How do we reinstate Mr. Appleton? And how do we remove some of these board members? After reading some board meeting minutes it’s obvious that there are some people on this board that are not looking out for Mosier property owners best interests. Fire season is not over with and I know that without Mr. Appleton as our Chief I’m feeling nervous. The Microwave fire was a real wake up call for many of us who almost lost our homes and property. We stepped up and voted to put money towards our volunteer department. Under Chief Applegate the department has become a professional unit. It’s time to find some way to increase his pay, not to fire him.

Saturday we are having another Rocky Prairie Neighborhood dinner that 30 or more Mosier property owners will be attending and I know these two questions are going to be the main topic. We need to reinstate Chief Appleton ASAP and without a hostile Fire Board. He and his volunteer fire fighters need all the support they can get from the community and the board. I hope that he will be willing to come back.

Sincerely,
Karen Broderick
943 Quartz Dr.
Mosier, OR
karen@mcn.org

October 12, 2014
To the Mosier Fire Board:

We were shocked and dismayed to learn about the recent termination of Fire
Chief Jim Appleton by 3 directors of the Mosier Fire District Board. There was no
forewarning or involvement of the Mosier community in such an important issue, and
it appears that there is no plan in place for the immediate future.

After the Microwave fire, residents of the district voted for increased
assessments and restructuring to upgrade the district. We feel that Jim Appleton has
been very successful in doing this. The IOS rating has improved and is resulting in
lower insurance rates for some citizens in the district. There is an increased core of
well-trained and licensed volunteers, and there appears to be much more coordination
with neighboring fire departments.

Over the past few years it has become clear that Jim Appleton has grown into his
position as Fire Chief and fills it very well. Finding a replacement that is as dedicated,
willing, and capable of the job now being performed by Jim Appleton seems highly
improbable at best, and completely unnecessary.

We urge the Mosier Fire District Board to reinstate Jim Appleton as Mosier Fire
Chief.

John Ratts and Elizabeth Stanek

I strongly OPPOSE to reducing to halftime AND/OR replacing Chief Appleton!

During the Rowena Fire, I was comforted in knowing our Chief and Fire Department were keeping me informed and was on the ready, if necessary.

Thank you,

David Brandt
2222 Pine-Oak Rd.
dbrandt@gorge.net
415-505-3459

To: Mosier Fire District Board of Directors
Re: Mosier’s Fire Chief
Date: October 16, 2014
From: Russell and Stephanie Hargrave

We want you to know that we have felt more secure since Jim Appleton has been fire chief. It is very clear that he is passionate and committed about the safety of our property and our community. We have found Jim to be very accessible and a good partner as we work to protect our lands from fire. He seems to have been successful in building stronger fire-fighting and emergency medical response capabilities. He has recruited, retained, and trained a growing cadre of volunteers, no small feat given the hours each volunteer has to donate and the aging equipment they have to use.

The board appears to be micro-managing the department. From the board meeting minutes it seems that the board members don’t have a common vision for what the department should be and how it should use its resources. The board members do not seem to empower or in many cases even support the fire chief. Instead the board’s discussions with the chief are often acrimonious and un-professional. The board has also been micro-managing how the department is run.

We are hoping that the board will take a step back and reconsider these actions and adopt a very different approach.

Very truly yours,
Russell and Stephanie Hargrave
October 16, 2014

Re: Termination of Fire Chief Jim Appleton

Mosier Fire District Board

After all the dedicated hours in education and training, establishing a well-organized and proficient volunteer fire department you have the gall to fire Jim.

The members of this board who voted to remove Jim are living in the dark (good old boys) days. Mosier is no longer a sleepy underdeveloped community. No longer is there a gravel road between Mosier and The Dalles. Gone is the little two lane bridge. As the area becomes densely populated with individuals and orchards, to name a few, the need for a fully equipment medical and fire response unit is critical.

I lived half of my life in California where we were constantly under the threat of fires. We have lived in the rural area of Mosier for 25 years. During the early years here, we had the opportunity to visit with The Dalles fire department and were advised that if a fire started around our property it would take a tanker truck 45 minutes to reach us. The Fire Marshall advised us if a fire started on the hill, it would be fought when it reached Folley Lakes or Mosier and we would be on our own to save our property and lives.

Since Jim was installed as Fire Chief we have had the pleasure of a comprehensive fire plan for our property to make it as safe as possible and available if a fire should surround our home, for fire apparatus to enter and exit our property as needed. I stopped him several times this summer during the fire for updates on the progress. Jim escorted fire fighters into areas they needed to reach but did not know how to get there. Jim does not just sit behind a desk , he is out in the community.

Jim also discussed the EMS role of his volunteers as Bill and I are no longer spring chickens.

All in all, we feel that if a catastrophe should occur we were well protected. I no longer have confidence in the Fire Board and feel the ones who voted for the ouster of Jim should immediately resign as they no longer have the wellbeing of Mosier and the extended community in their role as board members.

Bill & Jennifer Ringlbauer
Dell Vista Drive
Mosier