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Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance asks voters to support increased fire fighting capacity

A firefighter stands with their back to the camera.
Sweet Home Fire
The Sweet Home District provides fire protection to a 159 square mile Fire District and serves a 971 square mile Ambulance Service Area.

The Sweet Home Fire and Ambulance District is asking for voter support in May to fund new equipment. The District is also crafting a unique cross-agency relationship.

Sweet Home Fire is signing a contract with the U.S. Forest Service to fund a local fuels-reduction team. Fire Chief Nick Tyler said the Forest Service grant of about $1 million a year, guaranteed for two years, will be the seed money for a crew of 20, plus five staff. He said the bond would cover the costs of a chipper and two wild-land fire engines.

Tyler told KLCC the arrangement with the Forest Service will go forward regardless of whether the bond passes. If the bond fails, he said, the district would need to utilize some of that Forest Service money to buy equipment.

"Then we won’t be able to get the number of employees to the full 20 or 25," he said. "We may have to scale it back to do 10, plus equipment.”

The agreement with the Forest Service is uncommon. After working with the Forest Service to fight the 2023 Wiley Creek Fire southeast of Sweet Home, Tyler said the team is excited to help protect the area from wildfires.

Tyler said new radios are another major component of the bond. He said they’ve used hand-me down radios from other fire departments, which lose signal in remote areas of the district. He said a new suite of radios costs about $750,000.

If approved, the $3 million bond would cost taxpayers 47 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, compared to the expiring 2017 bond, which was 37 cent per $1,000.

Sweet Home Fire is holding open houses to discuss the bond. Tyler said he believes the community is highly supportive.

Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.