After the Vancouver Fire Department’s big funding win in last month’s special election, several Clark County fire agencies are considering turning to voters to boost their levy funding, too, amid increased demand for services.
The Board of Fire Commissioners for Clark County Fire District 6, Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue and Clark County Fire District 5 are considering adding the question of increasing levy funding for the agencies to the Aug. 2 primary election ballot.
Clark County Fire District 6 says it will ask voters to renew its EMS levy at $0.45 per $1,000 of property value, which was the original amount voters approved in 2016. As property values have risen, the agency’s levy has fallen to its current rate of $0.34 per $1,000 in property value to keep the department’s revenue the same.
The current levy is set to expire at the end of this year, which Fire District 6 says would mean losing 24 of its 71 staff members.
In a rapidly growing county, Fire District 6 said 87 percent of its calls are emergency medical calls.
“The EMS levy helps us provide Basic Life Support with Firefighter/EMTs and Advanced Life Support with Paramedics,” a Fire District 6 news release said. “Funds are used for emergency personnel, training and certifications, maintenance, medical equipment, first aid supplies, personal protection equipment, especially for COVID-19, and equipment replacement.”
Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue
Clark-Cowlitz Fire and Rescue is seeking an EMS levy of between $0.45 and $0.50 per $1,000 in property value to fund paramedic positions. A resident in the agency’s service area with a $500,000 home would pay an additional $19 to 21 per month, or $225 to $250 per year.
The agency would use the funds to hire 21 new employees, ensuring that three firefighters would be on duty per unit each day, with at least one of them being a paramedic. Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue is also looking to purchase two ambulances and other EMS equipment, hire an EMS training officer, and provide ongoing training to paramedics, according to a news release.
“Part of the challenge is caused by CCFR’s low staffing levels,” Clark-Cowlitz Fire Chief John Nohr said in the news release. “Because CCFR usually only has two personnel on each of our five emergency response units each day, we are often required to send two units to high-priority incidents to get enough personnel on scene to mitigate the problem. Response times are lengthened when we must send units from farther away to cover for units that are already on another emergency incident.”
Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue responded to about 18 percent more emergency incidents in 2021 than in 2020 and nearly 60 percent more than in 2016, the news release states. The agency said its response times have increased 11 percent since 2019.
Clark County Fire District 5
Clark County Fire District 5’s board is also considering adding a fire levy lift from $1.01 to $1.25 per $1,000 in property value, to begin in 2023, to the August ballot.
If the issue goes to voters and they approve the increase, the funding would pay for three new firefighters, including a paramedic, at the new Fire Station 11 in the Orchards-Sifton area beginning this fall, a news release states. The agency said the extra staffing will improve response times districtwide.
The agency is also looking to retrofit older stations to ensure they can still operate in case of an earthquake.
“Call volumes and population has increased significantly, but the number of firefighters serving Clark County Fire District 5 and the Vancouver community has not increased for 15 years,” Vancouver Fire Chief Brennan Blue said in the news release. “Additional emergency personnel are needed to respond to higher call volumes and maintain emergency response times.”
Fire District 5, which is served under contract by the Vancouver Fire Department, said call volumes have risen over 20 percent in the last three years.
Vancouver residents approved a $0.50 rate hike in the Feb. 8 special election.