The Wallowa Rural Fire Protection District netted about $2,000 from its annual steak and oyster feed Saturday, Feb. 8, Fire Chief Gary Hulse said Monday. The event is a traditional annual affair in Wallowa.
Hulse said about 220 people turned out for the afternoon/evening event at the Wallowa Senior Center. In addition to members of the public, representatives from all firefighting units in Wallowa County showed up.
Hulse said the event is the only fundraiser the department holds each year. The event brought in a total of $6,000, but that was before paying for 55 gallons of oysters and all the rib eye steaks. He said several people who had alerted them ahead of time were able to purchase a gallon of oysters for $50.
Proceeds are used to pay for needed equipment. At present, they need a new Jaws of Life used to literally cut automobiles apart to rescue trapped victims. He said that costs about $30,000 and hopes to be able to purchase one by the end of the year both with the department’s fundraising and the help of a grant.
The Jaws of Life is particularly important since one of the most common calls the department responds to is automobile wrecks. Hulse said Minam Canyon is particularly hazardous.
In addition to paying for equipment, the department also sponsors two $500 scholarships — one to a graduating Wallowa High School student interested in becoming a firefighter and the other to help pay for the studies of a fire cadet. The department also contributes to the Wallowa Food Bank.
Hulse said his department – made up mostly of volunteers – consists of about a dozen firefighters. He’s hoping to build the number to 15 or 16. “It’s getting harder and harder to find volunteers,” he said. So he’s especially appreciative of both the support at the fundraiser and of the public in general becoming more fire-aware.
“Over the past several years, people are getting more fire conscious,” Hulse said. “That’s really helped.”