The citizens of Alfalfa know what it’s like to live in an area without fire protection, and they’ve decided to do something about it. Last week, Deschutes County commissioners did their part, agreeing to put a measure to create a fire district there on the November ballot.
Alfalfa lies east of Bend, outside the boundaries of Deschutes Rural Fire Protection District No. 2, the nearest fire district. When buildings burn, and occasionally they do, firefighters do not respond. At least seven structures in the community have caught fire in the last five years.
The situation clearly is dangerous, so much so that county commissioners talked about solutions as far back as April. Several changes — simply fighting fires and billing people for doing so, imposing an extra property tax to pay for protection — could have been imposed without going to a vote of those living in Alfalfa.
Fortunately, commissioners decided to give the community time to decide for itself how best to proceed.
It has done just that. By late May, Alfalfa residents had gathered 137 valid signatures on a petition asking the county to put a measure on the November ballot creating a fire protection district in the area. A public hearing was held last week in Bend, and commissioners voted to go forward. A second hearing will be held in Alfalfa in early August.
Residents of the community, which lies in both Deschutes and Crook counties, will vote on the proposed district this November. If they agree, their property taxes will go up by as much as $1.75 per $1,000 of taxable property value, though the amount levied could be less. Too, insurance rates should decline a bit, offsetting some taxes.
If voters agree to form the district and tax themselves to support it, state law says they’ll have to hire a fire chief, and volunteers will be required to be trained to state standards. Both requirements help to ensure the safety of those actually fighting fires.
It is clear Alfalfa residents are aware of the dangers of life without fire protection. Their desire to control how that protection is provided makes sense.