MCFD1 moves levy to ballot

MCFD1 Marion County Fire District Clear Lake

For the sixth year in a row, call volumes have increased for Marion County Fire District #1. The agency responded to 8,026 calls for help in 2019, a 5.6 percent increase from 2018. 

Overall, call volumes have increased an average of 5.2 percent per year since 2016. Overlapping calls for help account for 55 percent of these calls, and Fire Chief Kyle McMann said that the agency needs help.

The additional cost would be $4.67 per month (or $56 per year) for the owner of a home assessed at $200,000. The funding request will be on voter ballots during the May 19 primary election. 

“We simply don’t have enough firefighters to respond,” said McMann. “In many cases, we have to rely on mutual aid from neighboring agencies, which takes longer to reach people in an emergency. We need to do better for the people we serve.”

The fire district is asking voters to consider increasing its operating levy from 71 to 99 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. Most of the 28-cent increase would fund two additional firefighter/paramedics and a deputy fire marshal — a small portion would be dedicated to routine apparatus replacement.

MCFD#1 currently relies on full-time and volunteer personnel to staff its engines. Volunteer participation has declined 52.4 percent since 2013. This impacts the district’s ability to get an effective response force on scene.

Two more firefighters would enable the district to guarantee staffing a third engine seven days a week to respond to emergencies. McMann believes that a guaranteed third engine during busiest times would make a difference to saving lives and property.

In the last week of December, three calls were dispatched to the district within 10 minutes. Two engines were already on calls, and there were not enough firefighters to staff the third. As a result, MCFD#1 had to reach out to a neighboring agency for mutual aid.

In October of 2019, there was a serious accident involving semi-trucks and cars on I-5. Again, there were only two staffed engines, and both were dispatched to the accident scene. This took one engine away from the high call volume area where it is normally stationed, resulting in a delayed response time to the accident and other calls for service.

“Two more firefighters would guarantee that third engine during the busiest time of day between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. This means we can get to an emergency faster and maintain an engine in high call volume areas, which is safer for our citizens,” said McMann.

More information about the ballot measure can be found at McMann is available to respond to questions personally. He can be reached at 503-588-6535 or [email protected].