Editorial: Alfalfa needs fire protection

About 300 homes in Deschutes County could catch fire today and burn without a single firefighting agency there to put out the blaze. Residents of Plainview, Lower Bridge and Alfalfa live outside any of the county’s several rural fire protection districts.

That may change in the coming months, at least for the 900 or so residents of Alfalfa, east of Bend. Residents there gave county commissioners a petition Wednesday seeking to form the Alfalfa Fire District. The commission is expected to hold a public hearing on the request June 26, and voters within the proposed district could see it on their ballots this fall.

While some of the proposed district lies in Crook County, hearings and other matters are being handled in Deschutes County, where most of the district lies. Voters in both counties will have a say on the district’s creation, however.

There are solid reasons for creating a fire district in Alfalfa.

Safety is, clearly, the most important one. Without formal fire protection, Alfalfa residents have nowhere to turn should a home or barn catch fire. Nearby fire protection districts might help. Meanwhile, there have been seven structure fires in Alfalfa in the last five years, according to the alfalfafiredistrict.org website.

Homeowner insurance premiums likely would drop with a fire district. One insurance agent in Bend says the change could go as far as to halve the cost of insurance if the district’s ISO rating, on which premiums are generally based, could go from its current 10 to 8B. For comparison, Bend’s ISO rating is 4).

Finally, forming a district offers Alfalfa residents the opportunity to do it their way. Without a district, the county could arrange for protection, then charge the individual residents for the costs involved. A district, in which all neighbors share costs, would be cheaper for each individual. Another option would be to have the county simply assess the tax without voter approval.

That latter is the worst possible way of getting fire protection to Alfalfa. Far better is the path on which the community is now, a path that lets its residents decide for themselves that fire protection is important.