Fighting the dwindling of volunteers, Seal Rock is looking to hire firefighters to make up a gap that has plagued fire halls everywhere.
A levy on the ballot for the May 21 special election would impose a 30 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for five years to create two new full-time firefighter positions in the district and pay for expenses related to those jobs.
The call to get more men on the job comes as neighboring districts like Newport, Depoe Bay and North Lincoln move toward consolidations they say may be necessary as the number of calls keeps climbing and volunteer interest in the demanding and important work of fire safety continues to falter. Even as Seal Rock looks to hire, the district is also working to get more volunteers on board.
“Our anticipation was always that we’d have six people,” said Al Anton, president of the Seal Rock Rural Fire Protection District. “We tried it with four people to see if it would work. Our volunteers dwindled down to almost nothing, and our five-year plan anticipated we’d have six firefighters. This guarantees a two-person response.”
Volunteer firefighters currently make up the fire-fighting force of the district, and the district will still use volunteers to respond to fires and emergencies in the district’s jurisdiction. Full-time firefighters, however, are still needed to improve response time, improve operations and keep the district up to full staff.
“We’re trying to do our best to protect our community,” Anton said. “Volunteers are the most viable part of our district, but we don’t have the volunteerism we used to. We’re doing our best to protect our constituents.”
Estimates, according to the ballot measure, state the total for hiring two full-time firefighters for five years and paying for related expenses will cost $825,450.
Eight candidates for seats on the board of directors of the Seal Rock Rural Fire Protection District, as well as the five-year local option levy to pay for full-time firefighters is on ballots that were sent out last week.
The candidates for the Seal Rock Fire Protection District include Larry Henson, Karl Kowalski and Tina Fritz for four-year term position two, Larry Silverthorn, Dustin Joll and Paul Rimola for four-year terms in position three, and Erik Dedijer-Small and Peter Benjamin for four-year terms in position four. Kowalski, Silverthorn and Benjamin are the incumbents.
This isn’t the first time the Seal Rock Rural Fire Protection District went out for a levy. The district put a levy on the ballot in November 2016, imposing 40 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The measure passed 974 to 287, according to Lincoln County Clerk Dana Jenkins.
The last time the district attempted a levy in November 2018, district officials asked for the same amount they’re asking for now — 30 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. That attempt failed 853 to 819.
Levy renewal in Yachats
The Yachats Rural Fire Protection District is also going out for a renewal of a local option tax. This tax would cost 60 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for five years and would pay for firefighters salaries and that of emergency medical personnel who work for the district. The district’s operating costs and buying protective equipment would also be covered by the levy renewal.