Tribal Government & News

Tribal Council OKs five-year transition plan to take over operation of Grand Ronde Fire Station

07.22.2020 Dean Rhodes Tribal government, Public safety


By Dean Rhodes

Smoke Signals editor

The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde will be responsible for fire and emergency medical response in the community by 2025, according to a five-year transition plan approved by Tribal Council during its Wednesday, July 22, meeting.

Fire suppression and emergency medical response responsibilities for the community are currently supplied by the West Valley Fire District located in Willamina.

As early as December 2019, the Tribe expressed its desire to add fire to its list of sovereign nation public safety responsibilities that currently include operating its own police department and emergency management office.

Tribal Council approved on Dec. 12 an authorization to proceed that instructed General Manager David Fullerton to renegotiate a memorandum of understanding with the West Valley Fire District to include a “comprehensive transition plan” for the Grand Ronde Tribe to assume operations of the fire station at Grand Ronde and McPherson roads.

In addition, Fullerton was directed to file the appropriate documents to register the fire station as being owned and operated by the Tribe, which might provide an “increase in external funding opportunities.”

Fullerton also was directed to oversee the transition plan and re-organize the Emergency Management Program now located at the Grand Ronde Tribal Police Department to assume fire station operations.

The authorization to proceed established a $50,000 operating budget for the 2020 budget year for fire station management.

The Tribe and West Valley Fire District signed an intergovernmental agreement in July 2009 to build and operate the fire station in Grand Ronde. The $1 million fire station opened in June 2010, substantially cutting response time for fire and medical emergencies in the Grand Ronde area.

Throughout the last decade, the Tribe has budgeted hundreds of thousands of dollars annually to fund operations at the fire station.

The West Valley Fire District recently joined two other fire departments – Sheridan and Southwest Polk – to form one district for fire and emergency medical services. The intergovernmental agreement took effect on July 1, 2019. The new district covers 535 square miles and includes eight fire stations, including the one in Grand Ronde.

“A Tribally controlled, equipped and staffed fire station centrally located in Grand Ronde is an effective and efficient means to provide an enhanced level of fire and emergency medical services to Tribal lands and promotes sovereignty,” states the new intergovernmental agreement with the West Valley Fire District.

During the five-year transition, the Tribe will continue to fund personnel to staff the fire station while the Tribe and West Valley Fire District will work to recruit Grand Ronde Tribal members for full-time positions and work to identify and recruit volunteers.

The Tribe has already applied for several federal grants that would help purchase firefighting equipment and an ambulance for the local fire station.

In other action, Tribal Council:

  • Approved the Tribe’s $30,000 annual membership dues to the National Congress of American Indians and appointed Tribal Council member Michael Langley as the principal delegate;
  • Approved 99-year master ground lease for 36-lot Grand Meadows manufactured home subdivision. Previously, the lease could only be extended for 50 years, Tribal Lands Manager Jan Reibach said during the Tuesday, July 21, Legislative Action Committee hearing;
  • Approved a contract with Perlo Construction of Tualatin to perform improvements on the Tribe’s new property in Salem. The Tribe purchased the Willamette Professional Center at 1011 N.E. Commercial St. NE in early May and will use the facility to expand Tribal health care services that will include medication-assisted treatment for those battling opioid addiction;
  • And approved the enrollment of three infants into the Tribe because they meet the requirements outlined in the Tribal Constitution and Enrollment Ordinance.

Also included in the July 22 Tribal Council packet were approved authorizations to proceed that supports the Molalla Fire District using a color logo on its fire engines that depicts elements of the Molalla story about Coyote and Grizzly, and agrees to sign a petition seeking to rename Dead Indian Memorial Road in southern Oregon that is being circulated by former Tribal Historian David Lewis.

To watch the entire meeting, visit the Tribal government’s website at and click on the Government tab and then Videos.