North Plains, rural communities to officially join TVF&R
Rural Washington County residents won't see much of a change, but July 1 will mark the end of an era in local firefighting history.
At the beginning of July, the Washington County Fire District No. 2 will be fully annexed into Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue. The district was formed in 1952 as the Hillsboro Rural Fire Protection District, renamed under its current moniker in 1968.
The district includes the city of North Plains as well as the communities of Helvetia, Midway, Rock Creek, Scholls and much of Central Washington County.
Well-wishers are invited to a gathering to honor the 65-year history of Washington County Fire District 2 at 3 p.m. June 30 at the fire station in North Plains — now known as Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue Station 17.
Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue has been contracting with the district to provide fire operations for a year, and administrative support for two years. All of the firefighters already work for TVF&R, and most of the buildings and apparatuses bear the TVF&R signage.
Over the last several years, though, TVF&R has made major changes to the level of service.
"The benefit the voters saw was that Washington County Fire District 2 had been struggling for a long while to fund the fire district," said Cassanda Ulven, TVF&R's public affairs chief. "It had a decreased level of volunteers, and it relied on volunteers to supplement staffing. Prior to asking TVF&R to contract, (the district) had asked the city of Hillsboro to provide service. It had been struggling to meet financial and staffing needs for quite some time."
After signing the operational contract, TVF&R added six firefighters across the district's two stations. All were trained at the paramedic level, allowing first-responders a greater ability to save lives, Ulven said.
North Plains Mayor Teri Lenahan said she has been impressed by the level of involvement by TVF&R in the last several months. Firefighters have been at nearly every function and activity the city puts on for North Plains residents, she said, and the fire station hosted an open house and breakfast for any resident who wanted to attend.
"I think they just have really embraced us and the transition has been almost flawless," Lenahan said.
The fire district did what it could with limited resources, Lenahan said, but TVF&R has brought a new level of expertise to the area.
Property owners in Fire District 2 will see a tax hike from $1.69 per $1,000 of assessed value to $2.08, though the rate will drop to $1.97 in a few years. Even though the price of fire services will go up, Lenahan said area residents will eventually see the value in the rate change.
"You get what you pay for, that's something that comes to my mind," she said. "I feel like, as a resident of North Plains, if I need emergency services and they save my life or a family member's life, I'm okay paying the extra 30 cents knowing I have people on hand to take care of me."
TVF&R is the largest fire district in the state, serving 11 cities and around 500,000 residents in portions of four counties, including Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin, West Linn, Wilsonville, and Sherwood. On June 19, Newberg voted to annex into TVF&R later this year.
Hillsboro, Forest Grove and Cornelius have dedicated fire departments.
TVF&R was formed in 1989 after the merger of Washington County Fire District 1 and the Tualatin Rural Fire Protection District. By working together and merging resources, Ulven said, the district lowers administrative overhead costs and use the savings to boost service levels. TVF&R can then locate stations, crews and equipment where they can best serve the surrounding communities.
"Emergencies don't know political or geographical boundaries," Ulven said. "We can operate like a cooperative to maximize everyone's investment so there's a crew on the ground to serve the community if they ever need help."