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Editorial: RF Fire Department enters critical period

This month sees the convergence of key issues affecting the local volunteer fire department and the communities it serves.

For the first time ever, there will be a paid, full-time fire chief. (See this week's Journal story about new chief Scott Nelson.) A similar process evolved for the volunteer-driven River Falls Ambulance when Jeff Rixmann was hired as the first full-time, paid director in February 2000.

The River Falls Fire Department is also being recognized for its 125 years of furnishing fire protection. That's an historical milestone by any standard! Until your home or business is threatened by fire, it's hard to have the fullest appreciation for the invaluable work and on-call dedication given by our volunteer firefighters.

Don't forget if you have time to drop in at the fire station open house Saturday afternoon. The occasion not only helps mark the RFFD's 125th anniversary, but visitors can see a fire hall facility that was just expanded and refurbished, along with the police station, once the old city hall moved to a new building last year. New Fire Chief Scott Nelson will be on hand Saturday to greet his new constituents.

Aside from transitioning to a full-time fire chief, questions about rural fire protection have festered all summer. Consider these headlines in last week's Journal:

--Clifton holds off on fire deal/Concern is over costs

--Kinnickinnic unhappy with city's position/Suggestion made to look to Roberts for fire protection

--River Falls Town may look to Ellsworth for fire protection

Elected officials from these surrounding towns are concerned and resentful about details of a new contract with the Rural Fire Association (RFA). They complain about escalating, unaffordable costs, and the city of River Falls' dominance in decision making that gives towns little say in operations, expenses and equipment.

For the good of all, it's time for these interested parties to settle the disputes equitably. Allowing them to linger unfairly tarnishes the great reputation of River Falls firefighters.

Perhaps our new fire chief can inject fresh ideas. We also hear mayoral candidates constantly campaigning for better town relations. Well, maybe it's time for Mayor Don Richards to join City Administrator Scot Simpson in the RFA negotiations. If not, maybe a skilled local mediator like attorney Keith Rodli can bring the sides together.

There's no doubt these difficult talks for rural fire protection have left bruised feelings. This issue should be put on the front burner and resolved soon, especially as River Falls moves beyond the RFFD's 125th anniversary and the addition of a full-time fire chief.

Online Poll:Most just trash old drugs

The Journal's online poll question this week asked: How do you dispose of old prescriptions?

The results as of Tuesday: Toss in the trash, 34.3%; Flush down the toilet or sink drain, 22.9%; Use 'em till they're gone even if expired, 20%; Give or sell to someone else who needs them and Take to a designated dropoff site, both at 11.4%.

To vote, go to Look for a new question Friday.