Canby Fire Looks to Hire ‘New Generation’ After Passing Levy Increase

Later this year, dozens of new full-time firefighters and emergency paramedics will join the ranks of Canby Fire, Clackamas Fire and several other regional fire districts that were successful in passing levy renewals in last month’s elections.

With official results from the May 16 special district election now certified, Canby Fire’s proposed five-year replacement levy for emergency services passed easily, with more than 60% of voters in favor, 3,900 to 2,535.

“First of all, we really just want to say, ‘Thank you’ to the voters for their support of the fire district and the level of service that we provide,” Canby Fire Chief Jim Davis told the Current last month.

File photos by Tyler Francke.

Davis said the district board of directors did not take the decision lightly to place a new, higher levy before the voters. The district had not sought an increase to its five-year operating levy since 2015.

“But we really felt like it was our job to provide the information to the voters so they could make a decision about the level of service that they want us to provide,” Davis explained. “We’re grateful that the voters did approve it, and we promise that we will fulfill what we said we would do.”

Davis and Canby Fire Board Chair Shawn Carroll explained the need for the increase was driven by community growth and a sharp increase in calls for service — primarily medical emergencies — that has outpaced the district’s funding and staffing levels.

File photos by Tyler Francke.

Since voters last approved an 11-cent increase in the district’s local option levy in 2015, emergency calls had increased 56%, from 2,284 in 2014 to 3,568 in 2022.

“It has been a challenge, at times, trying to service the calls we’ve had over the last year, so this will be a good shot in the arm for the fire district,” Carroll said. “On behalf of the board and staff at Canby Fire, we want to thank the citizens of the Canby Fire District for their continued support.”

The measure’s passage will increase the district’s local option levy from 45 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation to 95 cents for the next five years. According to Canby Fire, the new levy will cost the average homeowner will pay about $262 a year.

File photos by Tyler Francke.

The levy is in addition to the district’s permanent tax rate of $1.54, which cannot be raised under Oregon law, making the district’s combined tax and levy rate $2.49 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The levy will add six new firefighter/medics to the district’s roster, for a total of 24 serving the Canby Fire District, and help staff the district’s new Medic Station 363 on Northeast Territorial Road, greatly improving response times in the north side of town.

However, those new positions are not likely to come to fruition until at least November, when property tax collections for 2023 begin coming in.

File photos by Tyler Francke.

Davis acknowledges that Canby Fire will be competing with neighboring fire districts for the same talent, not the least of which will be Clackamas, which intends to hire 62 new firefighters thanks to the passage of its levy.

Canby Fire will do a broad recruitment process, but will also continue to develop candidates through a high school student intern program that has been extremely successful in recent years.

“We are very fortunate that we have such a good intern program with our students,” Davis said. “And we’re working with the high school to attract more interns. We want to put the word out there that the fire service is for everybody, men and women. It’s an all-new generation for Canby Fire.”

File photos by Tyler Francke.

Clackamas Fire, which passed its emergency services levy by a similar margin in May, promises to hire more than 60 additional firefighters, increase staffing across most fire stations, and provide 24/7 career staffing at two rural fire stations (Clarkes and Logan) that are critical to wildfire and emergency response.

“As your fire chief, I cannot emphasize our gratitude for your trust in us enough,” Clackamas Fire Chief Nick Browne said in a message to the community this week. “This opportunity to expand our staffing levels and improve our services is an exciting milestone for your Fire District.

“We are dedicated to fulfilling our duty of saving lives and protecting homes and structures while bringing calm to chaos to the best of our abilities. I want to let you know that your support has made this advancement possible.”

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