EUGENE, Ore.– A big day for the cities of Eugene and Springfield. Eugene and Springfield Fire Departments fully merged into one entity on Monday. It’s a process that has been years in the making.
In 2007, Eugene Fire Chief Randy Groves and then Springfield Fire Chief Dennis Murphy began bringing the two organizations together.
“We blurred the geopolitical line of the two cities and started having the closest units respond along the borders of Eugene and Springfield. That was the first step,” said Chief Groves.
Following Chief Murphy’s retirement in 2010, Chief Groves took the helm for both departments, and merged administrative and support functions. At 8am on Monday, the departments took the final step- fully integrating the departments.
“The functional consolidation will become real on the streets. Firefighters from Springfield Fire and Eugene Fire will start swapping stations. We have an integration plan where we’ll have employees in Eugene and Springfield in the same stations back and forth,” said Mike Barnebey, the Union President of the Lane Professional Firefighters Association.
Over 200 line firefighters will work together on both sides of I-5 and share resources, creating more capacity at a fire or medical scene.
“Both departments are able to respond, which means better safety on site, quicker responses, and more resources both in terms of people and equipment,” said Springfield Assistant City Manager Jeff Towery.
Mergers are catching fire in departments across the nation because of its significant potential for cost savings. Since the merger began in Eugene and Springfield, the two departments amassed a savings of more than $5 million, and is expected to save $1.6 million annually.
“I think we’re giving better value to the public. I think we’re giving a much better level of service to the public,” said Chief Groves.
Monday marks two departments with two different cultures, but with the same core mission and values, now blended into one.
“I believe the public doesn’t care what color the fire apparatus is or what city is come from. We want the closest and most appropriate response,” said Chief Groves.