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'Not taking it lightly:' McKenzie Fire & Rescue asks voters to approve tax increase

Front of a parked fire engine.
Tiffany Eckert
McKenzie Fire & Rescue is asking taxpayers to vote for "yes" in May for a 5-year operation levy to maintain current staffing, emergency response services and facilities.

McKenzie Fire & Rescue will soon ask voters to replace a five-year operation levy. Measure 20-356 proposes a property tax increase to maintain 24-hour staffing and sustain response levels.

The service area of McKenzie Fire & Rescue spans from Springfield City limits at Thurston, along the McKenzie corridor to rural properties just before Blue River.

There are five stations within the Fire District. Walterville, Camp Creek, Vida and Nimrod are each run by volunteer firefighters. Only Leaburg Station has full-time staff, round-the-clock. Fire Chief Darren Bucich said their operations are “levy dependent.”

“We’ve become much more than just fire,” he said. “We do 85% medical calls. We have two boats that we have to maintain, for water rescues. We have a lot of car wrecks we deal with.”

Fire Chief Darin Bucich stands next to firefighting gear.
Tiffany Eckert
McKenzie Fire & Rescue Chief Darren Bucich has led the Fire District for 15 years. Here, he stands in the gear room at the Leaburg Station.

Property owners in this Fire District have approved every levy since 2000. But Bucich doesn’t take the current request lightly because “we are asking for more money,” he said.

If approved, the five-year levy would increase the current tax from 60 cents per $1,000 assessed property value to $1.05, beginning in 2025.

Under the proposed levy, a home with an assessed value of $300,000 would cost homeowners an additional $11.25 per month. Assessed value is considered for tax purposes while market value follows real estate trends.

In addition to maintaining qualified staffing of nine full-time employees, Bucich told KLCC the operation levy would also afford continuation of the Student Program, which helps pay the cost to train Lane Community College students in emergency medical responses and firefighting.

Bucich said emergency calls in the McKenzie Valley have more than doubled in the last ten years. He added, if Measure 20-356 does not pass in the May 21 election, McKenzie Fire & Rescue will continue to maintain emergency response services, however, staffing levels will have to be reassessed.

McKenzie Fire & Rescue will host a series of public information meetings at the Leaburg Training Center, 42870 McKenzie Highway:
Saturday, April 27 - 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Monday, April 29 – 6 p.m.
Tuesday, May 7- 10 a.m.

Front view of fire station.
Tiffany Eckert
McKenzie Fire & Rescue's Leaburg station is located at 42870 McKenzie Highway. Three women and six men currently make up its full-time staff.

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and worked in a variety of media including television, technical writing, photography and daily print news before moving to the Pacific Northwest.