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Bend Fire Asks Council For More Firefighters


A blaze can ignite at any given moment — and when you call 911, you expect help right away.

But a shortage in Bend firefighters could force some to play the waiting game.

“There are times when we are strapped, and we have to rely on our mutual aid partners to help us,” Doug Koellermeier, deputy chief of operations, said Tuesday. “Then we have to stack calls or prioritize them so the lower priority ones will just have to wait.”

Bend has 68 firefighters to serve about 100,000 people. Other cities like Springfield, Oregon only have 66,000 people, but they have 19 more staffed firefighters.

And what’s more, Koellermeier says bend’s tax rate is considerably lower than many other Oregon cities it’s size and that was voters choice back when the housing market was strong.

With the crews salary and protective gear, the estimated cost of 12 extra firefighters would be more than $1 million a year.

Already strapped for cash, who would foot the bill?

The simple answer: It could be you.

“We recognize that the fire department doesn’t have the funding to staff to that level at this point, but I’m still obligated to present the staffing that we feel that we need,” said Bend Fire Chief Larry Huhn.

In order to meet this staffing recommendation, the city would have to increase revenues through a local option levy, public safety fee or other revenue sources.

The department says it’s already short-handed. With five Bend fire stations, they’ve been operating with a minimum of 18 firefighters for several years and they’re only getting busier.

“Our biggest places we struggle right now are under large incidents or many multiple incidents that pull at our resources. and there are times we do completely run out of resources,” Koellermeier said.

According to their deployment plan, the extra members are needed now — and though it might take some time, officials remain hopeful.

“There are some gaps in our performance. Quite honestly, part of my job as chief is to make the city and policy makers and city council are aware of those gap,” Huhn said.

On Wednesday night, city councilors will formally receive the department’s deployment plan that recommends more firefighters.

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