Woodburn Fire District's quickest response to an emergency call made from Gervais is 6 minutes and 30 seconds; that coming from the James Street station in Woodburn.
A response from the Brooks station would take about 10 seconds longer, while responses from the Woodburn main station and the Waconda station would take roughly 7 minutes, 30 seconds and 8 minutes, 30 seconds, respectively. District officials are not satisfied with that and have made establishing a new station in Gervais a key component of the current bond coming before voters in May.
"The travel time to the downtown Gervais area is longer than desired for effective fire protection and emergency medical treatment," WFD Chief Joseph Budge said. "Studies have shown that a fire can double in size every 30 seconds causing everything in a room to burn in as little as three minutes. The survivability of cardiac arrest is similarly impacted by emergency response time with a 7% to 10% reduction with every passing minute without CPR and defibrillation."
The new bond, which if passed would replace a current bond at its expiration date, would allocate 4.5% of its funding to establishing a fire station on Douglas Street in Gervais. WFD and the city of Gervais are working in conjunction to oversee this aspect of the proposal.
Gervais has been part of WFD since 1986, but a shortage of volunteers coupled with a need for significant repairs to the building forced the closure of Gervais fire station in 2007. That station was on Main Street, and the building was subsequently sold.
The city would furnish the land and share construction costs for a new station, and district officials are working out plans on how to man the station.
"If the bond is approved, the fire district plans to use current college student volunteer firefighters who will live at the station to supplement the emergency response from other volunteers from Gervais," Budge said. "The volunteers will be backed up by career firefighters responding from the main station in Woodburn that are on duty at all times."
District officials underscore the growth in Gervais when discussing the need for emergency response.
Growth estimates through Portland State University project Gervais' population to double over the next 20 years. Those estimates are consistent with the city's growth over the past eight years; between 2011-19 the population increased from just under 2,000 to 2,713, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which also estimates the city's 2021 population to reach 2,900.
WFD records show an average of 250 emergency calls from the Gervais area annually. That amounts to 9% of all 911 calls within the district, and it is consistent with the Gervais-area's portion of the roughly 39,000 residents WFD serves. The number of calls is anticipated to increase with the city's growth.
A station in Gervais would substantially reduce response times to calls in the area.
Budge and Gervais City Manager Susie Marston noted that the shared building proposal is the first part of a two-part plan to provide fire protection and emergency medical service in Gervais, now and in the future.
The purpose of the proposed replacement Woodburn Fire District bond is to continue to fund fire district facility needs and equipment expenses as the current bond has over the past 20 years.
If approved by voters, the tax rate of the replacement bond would be $0.26 cents per $1,000 assessed value of property, the same initial rate as the current bond.
No funds will be collected from the replacement bond until the current bond expires in 2022.
For details, visit the district website at woodburnfire.com.
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