Marion Co. pleads for volunteer firefighters as staffing cuts loom

Marion County

The fire district will lay off 12 firefighters and paramedics at the end of the year

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The Marion County Fire District is pleading with community members to volunteer to help respond to emergency calls ahead of staffing cuts and other cost-saving measures set to take effect in the new year.

The department will lay off 12 firefighters and paramedics at the end of the year, after voters struck down its attempts to replace an expiring local option levy not once, but twice.

“This has taken us back down to about 2007 staffing levels,” Fire Chief Kyle McMann told KOIN 6 News when the cuts were first announced, “when we had about half the call volume that we do now.”

Volunteers can serve in three different position types: Firefighters, EMTs, or Tender Operators. Most volunteers serve in the “home responder” role, meaning they live within a limited driving distance of a designated station, according to the fire district. They are usually assigned one or two 12-hour shifts a month to keep their skills up.

Another role is geared toward students. Applicants must have completed to NFPA Firefighter 1 coursework, have a National Registry EMT (or higher) certification, or be enrolled in a fire science program.

The Marion County Fire District has eight stations covering more than 80 square miles. On January 1, 2021, it will close the Macleay and Labish Center stations (4 and 7 on the map) and lay off 12 employees (Marion County Fire District)

Prospective volunteers can learn more and find applications on the fire district’s website. Applications are due January 8, 2021.

When McMann started working for the fire district in 2001, he said they had about 125 volunteers. Over the next two decades, that number would dwindle to fewer than 60.

“Life is busier and there’s so many things trying to grab people’s attention,” he said. “Those that did do a lot of volunteering are getting older, and they’re not able to do that as much.”

Unfortunately, he said it’s a line of work that has long depended on volunteers.

“It’s not something you can automate,” he said. “Somebody’s gotta answer that call when somebody’s house is on fire or they’re in cardiac arrest.”

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