The La Pine Rural Fire Protection District is critical to the safety of Deschutes County residents living south of Sunriver. It’s a tax-supported district, and the five-year local option operating levy that helps finance it is up for renewal in May.

Voters should approve the levy.

The district extends south from Sunriver Business Park to the county line and includes one small area of northern Klamath County. The local option levy was first approved in 1998 and most recently in 2013. Property owners within the district currently pay 64 cents per $1,000 of taxable property value to support it. That figure will not change if the measure is approved.

The levy raises just over $1 million annually, making it possible for the district to keep two paramedic units available around the clock. According to information supplied by the district, the crews are both out on calls at the same time more than 450 times each year. The levy also supports three fire stations and allows the district to staff a third ambulance or fire company.

The levy does more, supporting the district’s volunteer student resident/scholarship program, which keeps a dozen firefighters available. Students who complete the program successfully graduate from Central Oregon Community College with an associate degree in applied science.

The district is both geographically large and busy: last year its crews responded to some 2,379 emergency calls. It provides a service that’s vital to southern Deschutes County that could help keep down home insurance rates. The levy should be renewed.