Top goal for new MCFD chief: Greater awareness among residents district serves

Chief Kyle McMann is hoping to put the work of Marion County Fire District #1 into the spotlight. MCFD1 serves a segment of north Keizer.

Kyle McMann started working for Marion County Fire District #1 back in 2001 as an Engineer/Paramedic. Through the last 18 years, he has also served as Engine Captain, Emergency Medical Services-Operations Captain, Battalion Chief and Deputy Fire Chief. 

But he never thought he would be in the position he is now. 

As of January 1, McMann has been serving as the fire chief of MCFD1, where he oversees fire district operations as well as the finance division — which covers all aspects of budgeting and long range financial planning.

“I am very humbled and very honored to be chosen for this position,” McMann said. “My career path was initially just to be an operations chief, to have the support of the organization and the board of directors is a dream come true. It’s the pinnacle of my career.”

Even though he is still working in the same building, he has worked in for the last 18 years, McMann has come to realize over the last seven months how different this gig is than the roles he has had in the past. 

“The main difference is the number of people that come to you for a final call. I have to make the tough decisions now,” McMann said. “I moved eight feet across the hall, I get to put one more bugle on my badge, but the weight of responsibility is a lot heavier. You’re getting pulled in so many different directions.”

One of his main goals as the new fire chief is to get MCFD1 re-engaged with the public though a number of media outlets, as well as homeowners associations,

“We’re trying to re-engage with the public and letting people know who we are,” McMann said. “The fire service in general is very poor at telling people what we do, so we want to do a better job of that because this is what the people are paying for.”

McMann’s goal is to have the district publish a press release once per month and do a better job of posting major incidents online. He also wants members of MCFD1 to be more involved with the community — they will be hosting an open house at the station in September. 

“People see us responding on calls, but we want to tell them and show them what else we do,” McMann said. “We’re trying to be able to be out in the community a little bit more, which is something that fire districts have prided itself on in the past. We’re want to bring that back.”

“We just want to become more visible.”

MCFD1 provides fire and emergency medical services to a population of 50,000 that covers 80 square miles — including north Keizer. 

Since MCFD1 is a special district, it is not connected to a city or county, which McMann prefers.

“In my mind, being a special district is great. We’re not connected to a lot of layers of bureaucracy or the fights between departments,” McMann said. 

However, the caveat that comes with being a special district is that MCFD1 is limited in ways that they can raise additional revenue. 

One of the other issues for the district is that the number of volunteer fire fighters has been decreasing, while the call volumes are increasing at nearly a four percent rate per year on average — MCFD1 is on track to respond to nearly 8,000 calls by the end of the year. 

After a call is made, the goal of MCFD1 is to arrive to the scene in seven minutes or less. But with less volunteers, it can take 11 minutes for help to arrive when the district receives back-to-back calls. 

As far as a long term solution goes, McMann is hoping to hire additional personnel to respond to calls. 

“The call volume is going up, but the number of volunteers is going down, so we’re trying to figure out how to provide services and get to public houses quickly while not relying on other agencies in our jurisdiction,” McMann said. “But we have done a good job of making it work over the years.”

“We provide an excellent service for what we have, but we need a little bit more help.”

MCFD1 is considering asking voters to increase its operating levy in 2020 to fund emergency personnel, as well as some capital purchases. McMann promises to keep the public informed as the conversation unfolds. For questions or comments, he can be reached at 503-588-6535 or [email protected]