The Depoe Bay Fire Department’s motto is “Whatever it takes.” And you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t believe that Depoe Bay Firefighters live by that motto. But with the growth in the area and higher volumes of traffic on Highway 101 especially, that motto is getting stretched really thin. Calls continue to grow yet volunteers are getting harder to come by – not because people don’t care but, rather, so many local residents travel outside the area for work.
Fire Chief Josh Williams says some days a fire truck goes out with only one person on it betting that by the time it arrives on scene of whatever problem there is – traffic accident, gas leak or fire – volunteers will show up and take care of business. Williams says it’s worked in the past but these days it’s getting real tight out there.
And so, the Depoe Bay Fire District Board of Directors has decided to ask residents within the district, from Salishan south to Otter Crest, to pay (on average) $10 a month more on their property tax bill – at least for the next five years. That ten bucks will fund seven new full time positions (they now have 5) which will mean a minimum of three firefighters, 24/7, will roll on a call while the volunteers catch up.
Chief Williams reminds the public that Federal OSHA rules require that before firefighters can go into a burning building there must be at least two firefighters to go in, and two firefighters to remain outside for support – radio communications – hose coordination – fire truck water flow, etc.
The Depoe Bay Fire Board determined that current staffing levels of five full time staff simply isn’t enough anymore. They need at least seven more full time staff to provide a predictable level of immediate response regardless of when a call for help comes in. And again, it can be for a medical call, a traffic accident or building fire. Chief Williams says on average, 70% of their calls are for medical emergencies, 25% for water rescues and 5% for actual fires.
Chief Williams says the request for higher funding will be on the May 19th ballot. He said if the measure passes, it’ll be the first tax increase for the fire district in 23 years.