Sunday, March 26, 2023
March 26, 2023

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East County Fire & Rescue asks voters to renew levy

By , Columbian Breaking News Reporter

East County Fire & Rescue will be asking voters to renew its emergency medical services levy set to expire at the end of the year.

The levy is 35 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Fire Chief Mike Carnes said his primary focus is getting area residents to understand that the levy supports the fire department’s local ambulances.

“Most of the rest of Clark County uses AMR. We have the luxury of partnering with the Camas-Washougal Fire Department for the use of their vehicles and staff,” Carnes said.

If the levy fails, Carnes said he is unsure what emergency medical services would look like. The fire department runs the risk of slower response times, with AMR ambulances having to come from Vancouver, he said.

“We have no paramedics on staff, and they’re required for certain medical calls. If it was just our (emergency medical technicians), we wouldn’t be able to administer medications or perform other functions,” the fire chief said.

The fire department posted on Facebook that the levy would maintain current ambulance and paramedic services for the years 2021 through 2026.

Those current levels are three Camas-Washougal ambulances staffed daily, with a fourth ambulance on hand in case the others are being used, Carnes said. The levy also pays for EMT training and improves patient outcomes, he said.

The levy has been in place since 1979, according to Carnes. There was “a little blip” in its continued support, when it was rejected in 2008 during the Great Recession. The fire department went for 1 1/2 years without the ambulance partnership, and patients were billed by AMR for medical treatment outside its usual coverage area, Carnes said.

The emergency medical services levy is separate from the department’s fire services levy, which is $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Columbian Breaking News Reporter