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Wednesday, October 4, 2023
Oct. 4, 2023

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Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue levy on ballot for staff, equipment amid rising emergency calls


LONGVIEW — Some voters in Clark and Cowlitz counties — including the cities of Woodland, La Center and Ridgefield — will decide on a levy to better prepare Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue for what emergency crews say are rising calls and delayed ambulance services.

Voters in the 125-square-mile CCFR district are asked to fund emergency medical services with a regular property tax levy of 50 cents or less per $1,000 of assessed property value in the Aug. 2 primary election. Ballots will be mailed Friday.

If passed, the owner of a $374,400 home would pay at most $187 a year for the levy. Collection would start in 2023 and continue for six consecutive years.

The department says approving the levy will pay for more employees, which are needed because of an increase in emergency calls, slowed response times by a contracted ambulance company and the forced closure of the Clark C0unty fairgrounds fire station due to a lack of staff.

The levy revenue would pay for about 23 staff members and increase the department’s minimum personnel at each of its six stations, including the fairgrounds. The minimum staff would increase from two people to three people on each rig so a paramedic can be included on every emergency call. Paramedic, which have more medical training than an EMT, are included on about half the department’s emergency calls currently, the department said.

Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue responded to roughly 18 percent more emergency calls in 2021 compared to 2020, with an increase of 57 percent since 2016, according to a March 3 report.

Levy revenue would also purchase two ambulances to use as backups when the department’s contracted ambulance company, American Medical Response, is delayed, said Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue Chief John Nohr.

Since 2019, the district saw a 109 percent increase in AMR ambulances that took longer than 20 minutes to arrive at calls, according to the report.

An AMR spokesperson said the company meets the required response times in its contract with the city of Vancouver, which Nohr said includes CCFR. Nohr said the roughly 7-year-old contract has outdated response time requirements because it was written when the area was less populated.

If you go

What: Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue EMS levy open houses.

When: 6 p.m. Thursday and July 21.

Where: Thursday’s meeting is at station 21, 911 N. 65th Ave., Ridgefield, and the July 21 meeting is at station 26, 21609 N.E. 72nd Ave., Battle Ground.

Info: clarkfr.org.