Election ballots arrived in the mail this week and local voters are being asked to make a choice on three critical ballot measures. I am encouraging voters to support all three.
The Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District has placed two Measures on the ballot. Measure 5-245 is a ten year bond for the purchase of a badly needed, new fire engine and would cost taxpayers 26 cents per thousand of assessed property value. Measure 5-246 is a five year levy to fund the salary of a Training Captain to assist in the administration of the Department, mainly to organize the training of volunteers, as well as respond to calls when on duty. This would cost taxpayers 32 cents per thousand of assessed value.
The Vernonia Fire Department currently has one paid responder, Chief Dean Smith. According to Smith, volunteerism at the District is at an all time low and call volume is as high as it’s ever been. State requirements for volunteer training continue to increase. On top of that the VRFPD remains the lowest funded of any District in Columbia County.
Smith and the Vernonia Fire District are facing a perfect storm-a community that is too busy to volunteer, a limited training schedule to get the small number of volunteers they do have to meet state requirements, limited resources to fund operations and equipment, and not enough responders to answer the larger volume of calls they are receiving.
As Smith likes to point out, he and his small band of dedicated volunteers don’t just respond to fires. They assist the local ambulance service on EMS calls and also serve as the local rescue unit. They handle anything from extrications from motor vehicle accidents, to providing traffic control, to getting cats out of trees, and they have to be trained for all of them. Read More