For emergency services, response time is king. In the City of Bend, and throughout Deschutes County, the fire departments have the obvious responsibilities to manage house fires, as their name would suggest, but actually spend 80 percent of their time responding to emergency medical calls—and, points out Fire chief Larry Langston, the difference between a five minute and the current nine-minute response time is critical. Reviving a heart attack victim within five minutes, for example, means a 50/50 chance of survival; longer than eight minutes, virtually zero. Those response times are directly tied to funding and available resources—both which are woefully low for the City of Bend Fire Department.
In spite of being hamstrung by low finances, the City of Bend Fire Department does an admirable job responding to thousands of emergency calls each year. But to help it decrease its response time—and to save more lives and houses—it is of paramount necessity that you vote "yes" for the Fire Levy on May's ballot.
Let's repeat that: Vote YES for Measure 9-98.
The increase on property taxes for homeowners is minimal; roughly, $40 each year for a $400,000 home, or less than the price for one month of cable TV (which, let us also point out that if you are dead from a heart attack or your house burns down, that cable TV won't mean much). Over five years—the levy's lifespan—it will generate $10 million.
The requested levy is hardly a luxury. It is the first such request from the fire department in its 100-year history, and Chief Langston seems almost apologetic to be asking.
"This is new to me," he said. "I have no experience with this sort of thing."
But the reasons for the levy are evident and eminent: Compared to other, similar Oregon cities, Bend's fire department has greatly limited resources, with the lowest number of firefighters per capita, and six engines are older than 20 years. What stands out most is that Bend has a fire station every 32 square miles, compared with every three square miles in Ashland and every seven square miles in Eugene. Obviously, that remoteness and those limited resources greatly impact response times. (In spite of those great disadvantages, Bend's fire department does respond remarkably quickly; nine minutes, on average, compared with much better resourced departments within the five-to-six-minute range).
Still not convinced? Then, consider this argument: The response time for any municipality's fire and emergency services is tied to property insurance ratings. If that rating drops, we are certain you will pay far more than $40 a year in additional homeowner insurance. Isn't giving that money to your fire department just so much smarter?
Vote YES on the fire levy.See more photos by Matt Fox of the City of Bend Fire Department here.