Alfalfa residents submit petition to form fire district

By Shelby R. King/ The Bulletin –

Alfalfa may be getting its own fire district, and eventually its own fire department. The Deschutes County Commission on Wednesday accepted a petition from Alfalfa residents asking to form an Alfalfa Fire District. The commission set a tentative hearing date in late June.

““This was the culmination of a lot of work on a lot of peoples’ parts in the Alfalfa area,” said Laurie Craighead, an attorney for Deschutes County who presented the order to the commission. “The citizens worked very hard to get all their ducks in a row. “Petitioners submitted 237 signatures from Deschutes County residents, Craighead said. Of those, 137 were confirmed by the County Clerk as registered and eligible voters. ““It’s the most signatures I’ve ever seen on a petition to form a fire district,” Craighead said.

Alfalfa, which is situated partly in Deschutes and partly in Crook County, lies on some of the 175,000 acres of Deschutes County that are unprotected by a specific fire protection agency. Retired County Forester and Project Wildfire Director Joe Stutler in April warned that without fire protection, the town of Alfalfa is at high risk of burning down.

The next step in the process of establishing a fire district is to bring the matter to a formal hearing on June 26. If the district is formed, the matter will next be introduced to Alfalfa-area voters on the November ballot, Craighead said. “It takes board approval for the formation of the district, but, because they’re requesting the formation of a permanent taxing rate, it must go through a vote of the people,” she said. The petition is calling for a tax rate of $1.75 per $1,000 of assessed property value. If the issue makes it onto the November ballot and is approved by voters, Alfalfa residents will start paying the tax in July 2014 and collecting revenue in November 2014.

From – published daily in Bend, Oregon, by Western Communications, Inc. Copyright 2013.