A concerned committee of local residents is currently planning to form a fire protection district for the Alfalfa area. Here are some questions and answers that are important to you.
Q. Why does Alfalfa need it’s own fire district?
A. In just the last 5 years, there have been at least 7 structural and property fires causing thousands of dollars in damage plus over 230 rangeland fires since 1980 in the Alfalfa area.
Q. What about fire protection services from the City of Bend, the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) or the ODF (Oregon Department of Forestry)?
A. We are located too far away from the Bend Fire Station on Hamby Rd. to be serviced by them or annexed into their district. Both the BLM and ODF can only legally take care of wild land fires on public property, not fires on private property and structures.
The reality is that we, as a community, are responsible for our own fire protection.
Q. Why is this issue important now?
A. The State of Oregon and Deschutes County have determined that it is in all residents’ best interest to have fire protection because of how fast and easily fires can spread.
The County and State are both behind us to get our own fire district established but we have to take the first step by voting to form the Alfalfa Fire District (AFD).
One of the scenarios the County is considering for areas like ours that do not have fire protection is using existing resources (like the Bend Fire Department) to fight a fire in our area. They would then bill the property owner for the costs and could put a lien on their property if they did not pay, all of which they legally can do. Those costs could easily be in the thousands of dollars.
Obviously, it is in our best interest that we form our own fire protection district and control our own future. Which is what the County would prefer us do and why they are behind our efforts.
Q. Why should I support a fire district here?
A. The current method of neighbors helping neighbors is too slow, inefficient and rarely results in saving any buildings or structures. It also puts good intentioned citizens and property owners in danger and also at risk of personal injury lawsuits.
Q. I have fire insurance, why should I care?
A. With the increasing number of fires, more insurance companies are raising their premiums, no longer insuring homes and properties without fire protection or no longer offering fire insurance.
Plus, if there is a fire on your property and it causes damage to your neighbors, you are liable for the damage and could likely have your insurance coverage cancelled.
It is much easier to acquire a building permit for new construction if your new home site is in a fire district. Thus, a fire district would make it more likely that you would be able to resell your property and it could provide incentive for new construction.
If you don’t have fire insurance and there is a fire on your property that spreads to your neighbors property, you could be liable for any damages to the property and structures. Their insurance company would likely sue you for the damages and place a lien on your property until they were paid.
Q. I have my own fire fighting equipment or my neighbor has some, why should I support a fire district?
A. Peace of mind for when you’re not home and/or your neighbor’s not home. The Fire Department will be available 24 hours, 7 days a week with the resources and manpower to quickly contain and extinguish a fire before it spreads.
The top 5 causes of house fires are: Cooking, Heating, Electrical, Smoking and Kids playing with fire.
Q. How will we pay for the fire district?
A. There would be a tax assessed and added to your annual property taxes. The proposed permanent tax rate will be $1.75. This compares favorably with other fire districts in central Oregon and should provide a source of stable funding for our future fire district. Plus, as a legal fire district we will be eligible for numerous state and federal grants for supplies, training, equipment and a fire station.
Q. How much will my tax amount be and will I pay more if I own a farm or ranch with a large amount of acreage vs. a house in the subdivision?
A. The taxes you will pay will depend more upon your house and other improvements rather than the amount of acres you own. Each situation varies but in general there is not a significant difference in taxation between a house on 5 acres in Cascade View Estates subdivision and a comparable house on 200 acres of ranch land. The tax on property with a total assessed value of $150,000 would be $262.50 at the proposed rate. (see the Tax Comparisons chart for more information. Click to enlarge.)
Q. Will a fire district affect my homeowners insurance?
A. Insurance rates should lessen with a fire district in place—check with your insurance provider to see how it could affect you. Ask them what the difference in your current policy would be if your classification went from an ISO rating of 10 (no protection) to an ISO rating of 9 or 8B (probably as low as we can go in this area due to lack of fire hydrants or large amounts of available water at a fire site.)
Q. Where will the Fire Station be located?
A. The actual site for a fire station will be determined once an assessment is made where the volunteers are located, where the highest risk of fire may be, and response times to those areas in the district. The County has committed to finding us a suitable location.
(For more answers to your questions, go to the “Petition Q&A” page)