November levy would ensure four firefighter medics would be on duty every day

On the November ballot, voters within the Woodburn Fire District will be considering whether to approve a five-year local option levy (Ballot Measure 24-433). The following is information about the fire district and the levy to help voters make an informed decision.

The Woodburn Fire District provides fire suppression, emergency medical care and rescue services to more than 37,000 residents in the communities of Woodburn, Gervais and the surrounding areas within the 75 square miles served by the district.

COURTESY PHOTO - Woodburn Fire Chief Joe BudgeIn addition to emergency response, the Woodburn Fire District provides public education in fire prevention; fire and life safety code enforcement inspections in schools, retirement homes and businesses; review of development plans to ensure adequate water supply and emergency access; and a wide variety of public assistance and community involvement.

The Woodburn Fire District uses a combination of career and volunteer firefighters to meet its mission to the community. The district currently staffs one full-time emergency response engine with career firefighters. When multiple 911 calls are received or an incident requires multiple fire response units, the district relies on volunteers and off-duty firefighters responding from home and assistance from neighboring fire districts to respond to the emergency.

If approved by voters, funds from the levy would have the following impacts on the district's emergency response capabilities:

• Ensure that four firefighters/medics are on duty each day in the fire district. Four firefighters at the scene of an emergency are able to take more immediate action to fight fire and save lives without needing to wait up to 15 minutes for responders from home or neighboring fire districts. For example, when four firefighters arrive at the scene of a fire, one firefighter is needed to establish a water supply from a hydrant, a second firefighter operates the pump that receives the hydrant water and charges the fire attack hose lines, and the remaining two firefighters enter the burning structure to extinguish the fire and search for trapped occupants. Similar efficiencies are gained with four firefighters at critical medical emergencies and serious motor vehicle accidents. Current budget limitations result in the engine being staffed with only three firefighters on many days.

• Provide Advanced Life Support training to a select group of current firefighters. Firefighters with Advanced Life Support training are able to bring near emergency room level of assistance to patients having a medical emergency. The Woodburn Fire District and the Woodburn Ambulance Service work in close partnership to treat more than 1,000 patients annually. Firefighters typically arrive at the address first and begin patient care. Firefighters with Advanced Life Support skills would be able to provide an elevated level of lifesaving treatments while waiting for the ambulance. When the ambulance arrives, firefighters transfer patient care to the ambulance crew and assist with loading the patient for transport to the hospital. Funds from the levy would ensure that one of the four firefighters on-duty each day would have Advanced Life Support skills.

• Help the district's ability to cover multiple emergency calls that occur on a near daily basis in the district. The fire district responds to more than 2,700 emergency calls each year. Studies have shown that when annual emergency responses exceed 2,500, the likelihood of the engine being engaged at a previous emergency when a second or third call is received increases significantly. Annually, the Woodburn Fire District is experiencing more than 300 overlapping emergency calls. When four firefighters are on duty, the district has the ability, with the assistance from volunteers, to staff a second emergency response vehicle at the station, which helps to more effectively handle the multiple calls. With the expected growth in the area over the next five years, the overall demand for emergency service and the occurrence of overlapping calls are both expected to increase.

• Prevent staff reductions. The men and women of the Woodburn Fire District work hard to be good stewards of the financial resources that are provided. Despite efforts to control expenses, increasing operational costs have required the district to draw from reserve funds this fiscal year to maintain all existing firefighting personnel. Additional funds from the levy would provide adequate funding for all of the current staff and prevent firefighter layoffs in July 2019. If additional funding is not approved, fire district members will continue to strive to provide the best possible level of service with a reduced staff.

Emergency services from the Woodburn Fire District are funded by property taxes. The proposed five-year levy would add an additional tax of 35 cents ($0.35) per $1,000 of assessed property value. It is important to note that the assessed value of real estate is often less than the market value. For a home assessed at $160,000, about average for the district, the cost of the proposed levy would be about $56 for the first year, or about $5 per month.

The members of the Woodburn Fire District appreciate the opportunity to serve the community. Please remember to vote by Nov. 6.

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