Marion County Fire District #1 is moving forward with service level cuts as a result of its local option levy not passing in the recent election. Budget cuts include laying off 12 firefighter/ paramedics, taking emergency apparatus out of service, and closing fire stations.
This is the second time the levy renewal failed, which accounts for 30 percent of the Fire District’s operating budget. The first time was during the May Primary Election. At that time, MCFD#1 reduced staffing, station hours and apparatus to maintain a balanced budget, which is required by law. Employees and emergency personnel also accepted cuts to wages and health care benefits. The Board of Directors decided to fund remaining operation costs out of reserves until the end of the year at which point this revenue source will be depleted.
“We’ve hung on as long as we could,” said Fire Chief Kyle McMann. “There are no more reserve funds to fall back on, and service level reductions are inevitable.”
The Fire District has issued layoff notices to nine firefighters for the end of the year. This is in addition to three layoffs previously announced. This will bring daily staffing levels down from a minimum of 14 to eight emergency personnel per day. National Standards require 14 firefighters to safely fight a structure fire.
Fire stations in Macleay and Labish Center will be formally closed, furniture removed and apparatus transferred to other facilities. The Four Corners, and Chemeketa/Middle Grove Stations will have staffing reduced from five to two or three personnel to staff either a fire engine or ambulance depending on the type of emergency. (Five firefighters used to staff both a fire engine and an ambulance.) Battalion Chief staffing, the role responsible for command of fires and daily operations/supervision will be cut from 24 to 12 hours a day/7 days a week.
“We have an obligation to be transparent to the communities we serve about service level reductions,” said Chief McMann. “No one likes this. The reality is that laying off firefighters and taking apparatus out of service means longer response times – as much as 15 minutes to some parts of the Fire District.”