Our view: Stand up for firefighters Nov. 2


Craig's volunteer firefighters are a dedicated bunch.

When the fire board decided earlier this year that it no longer could afford to pay firefighters to respond to medical-assist calls, firefighters said they would continue to respond to nonrescue medical emergencies without pay.

"Everyone I talked to still will run, even if there's no pay, because it's a service to the community," Fire Chief Nichols said after the decision in February. "We want an opportunity to showcase our training, our dedication and our level of commitment to the community."

They're still doing it, Craig Fire/Rescue public information officer Doug Slaight said Tuesday.

Voting for the district's proposed mill levy increase won't change whether the firefighters are paid for these types of calls, but it will ensure that they're fully equipped to do a job we all depend on.

The only tax question on the November ballot, the measure would allow for a three-quarters of a mill increase, which translates into roughly $150,000 a year. If passed, it would increase taxes by about $6 a year on a home assessed at $110,000. It would raise the tax the fire department collects from the average homeowner from $15.89 to $21.62 per year.

According to fire officials, at least three vehicles need to be replaced in the next seven to 10 years, including a 1977 water tanker truck and the 1970 water tanker truck. The department also needs to replace breathing air compressors, outdated self-contained breathing apparatuses and the station's leaky roof. As the district's operating budget has decreased by almost $120,000 in the last decade because of deflation of the district's highest taxpayers, funds are no longer available for high-dollar expenditures.

The extra six bucks the firefighters are asking from the average taxpayer's pay will ensure that they can continue to respond to emergencies in a timely manner.

Fire officials are keenly aware that they are posing a tax increase in the wake of landslide defeat from voters two years ago. At that time, the district requested, among other things, money to build a state-of-the-art training center.

So they've lowered their aim and are asking for what now appear to be bare essentials: money for operating costs and capital equipment. The money won't be used for a training center or full-time salaries.

We expect emergency crews to be there for us when we need them.

Let's be there for them on Election Day.

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