The merger of the Estacada and Clackamas fire districts is on the November general election ballot.

      -     Voters residing within the boundaries of Estacada Rural Fire District 69 are strongly encouraged to vote yes on Measure 3-561, which would authorize the merger of the district with the Clackamas Fire District.

Likewise, voters in the Clackamas Fire District should also vote yes on companion Measure 3-560.

Both measures must pass in order for the merger to to take place.

The merger would double the minimum guaranteed staffing at the main station, from two to four firefighters at all times, in addition to staffing the George Station with volunteers.

There's also the added benefit of a decline in the tax rate. Clackamas Fire's rate is $2.40 per $1,000 of assessed property value, slightly lower than the rate charged by the Estacada Fire District. That equates to more services at a reduced price.

Recently, there has been some criticism of the merger, particularly from a majority of the Estacada City Council, which initially endorsed the merger, but since has withdrawn support.

The about-face stems from Clackamas Fire's performance during the Riverside and Dowty Road fire, during which firefighters were pulled off the line during what was called a "tactical pause." The fear and frustration in Estacada was real, and we are not going to dismiss those gut-wrenching emotions. But we will put firefighter safety ahead of property loss.

There also was concern that Clackamas Fire was dismissive of some community members when they attempted to offer valuable intel on the fire itself. That's a public-relations blunder that Clackamas Fire will need to repair without our help.

In addition, this was a moment of historic dimension, when firefighters and equipment were stretched to the breaking point or beyond. Having experienced the Riverside and Dowty Road fires, it's likely that all responding fire agencies have gained valuable insights that will improve their responses to the next big incident.

This historic Riverside Fire does not negate the value of the merger of the Estacada Fire District with the Clackamas Fire District. The merger is not only for historic moments, but for the average day-in-a-life when a home catches fire, cars crash, when someone is in medical distress and when the station has multiple calls at once. The added presence of firefighters and EMTs at a reduced price, along with volunteer staffing, is still the right way to go.

Passage of this measure also would improve Clackamas Fire's response capabilities to the communities of Eagle Creek, Highland, Logan, Boring and Clarkes.

There has always been some concern that the Estacada community would somehow lose its identity if it allowed the much larger Clackamas Fire to swallow the smaller fire district. That's not really a problem. Estacada, by virtue of its improving school system, eclectic mix of local businesses, growing population and idyllic country main street, has plenty of local charm and identity.

The Estacada Rural Fire District has served this community faithfully and admirably for many years. But economic circumstances being what they are, the time has come to take advantage of the benefits that arise through consolidation.

We recommend yes votes on measures 3-561 and 3-560.

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