Fire Chief Discusses Role for Additional Personnel in Improving Response Times
For the sixth year in a row, call volumes have increased for Marion County Fire District #1. The agency responded to 8,026 calls for help in 2019, a 5.6 percent increase over 2018. Overall, call volumes have increased an average of 5.2 percent per year since 2016. Overlapping calls for help account for 55 percent of these calls, and Fire Chief Kyle McMann says that the agency needs help.
“We simply don’t have enough firefighters to respond,” said Chief McMann. “In many cases, we have to rely on mutual aid from neighboring agencies, which takes longer to reach people in an emergency. We need to do better for the people we serve.”
The Fire District is asking voters to consider increasing its operating levy from 71 to 99 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. Most of the 28-cent increase would fund two additional firefighter/ paramedics and a deputy fire marshal. (A small portion would be dedicated to routine apparatus replacement.)
The Fire District currently relies on full-time and volunteer personnel to staff its engines. Volunteer participation has declined 52.4 percent since 2013. This impacts the Fire District’s ability to get an effective response force on scene.
Two more firefighters would enable the Fire District to guarantee staffing a third engine, seven days a week to respond to emergencies. Chief McMann provided two examples where a guaranteed third engine during busiest times would make a difference to saving lives and property.
In the last week of December, three calls were dispatched to the Fire District within 10 minutes. Two engines were already on calls, and there were not enough firefighters to staff the third. As a result, the Fire District had to reach out to a neighboring agency for mutual aid.
In October, there was a serious accident involving semi-trucks and cars on I-5. Again, there were only two staffed engines, and both were dispatched to the accident scene. This took one engine away from the high call volume area where it is normally stationed, resulting in a delayed response time to the accident and other calls for service.
“Two more firefighters would guarantee that third engine, during the busiest time of day between 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. This means we can get to an emergency faster and maintain an engine in high call volume areas, which is safer for our citizens,” said Chief McMann.
The additional cost would be $4.67 per month (or $56 per year) for the owner of a home assessed at $200,000. The funding request will be on voter ballots during the May 19, 2020 Primary Election. More information about the ballot measure can be found on the Fire District’s website at www.mcfd1.com. Fire Chief Kyle McMann is available to respond to questions personally. He can be reached at (503) 588-6535 or firstname.lastname@example.org.