Warrenton Fire Protection District looks forward to August ballot

By Jack Underwood, Staff Writer
Posted 6/12/24

The Warrenton Fire Protection District will move forward placing their bond issue on the ballot in the August 6 primary election.

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Warrenton Fire Protection District looks forward to August ballot


As the need for additional funding continues, the Warrenton Fire Protection District will move forward placing their bond issue on the ballot in the August 6 primary election. That bond issue narrowly failed to reach the four-sevenths majority to pass in April. 

Although they are only returning to the ballot with one measure, Fire Chief Anthony Hayeslip has stated that they will still need both measures to pass in order to keep themselves afloat financially. 

“About 20% of our calls are overlapping, and so what that means is, when one call comes out, another call comes out,” Hayeslip said. “So we’ve only got one truck so this next call is gonna be covered by somebody else, or the captain on that truck has to make a decision, which one’s a bigger priority.”

While the district has been in need, the situation has become dire according to WFPD board members Rob Vogelgesang and Donnie Owenby. 

“There’s a lot that’s at stake with this bond issue, we keep putting it out there and putting it out there and we need to impress upon our voters how serious it is that our need is to get this thing passed,” Owenby said. 

The district’s aging trucks and fire engine are being worked on almost constantly between calls and are nearing the end of their life cycles. 

“We are seriously looking at not being able to answer the call,” Vogelgesang said. “We’re at the point, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when our trucks break down.”

Vogelgesang and Owenby both felt that the upcoming ballot measure was especially important and without it, it would become increasingly difficult to maintain their fire engines and nearly impossible to purchase a new one when the time comes. 

Owenby said that in the past, they have been able to piecemeal together payments for new trucks, purchasing and building them one part at a time. He says that is no longer the case. 

“We don’t have the capability to do that anymore, the next truck that we build is going to have to be financed from the start,” Owenby said. 

In the same time frame that the district has been trying to pass funding measures the number of calls those fire engines have had to respond to has increased exponentially. 

In 2014, the fire district responded to 645 calls for service. Since then not only did the district add the personnel necessary to answer additional EMT calls, and the population in its service area has only increased. 

10 years later, the department responded to 1,867 calls for service, nearly tripling the totals from years prior. In recent years the district has had to make do with responding to these calls without the funds to hire additional firefighters. 

As the population in the area continues to increase it is likely that the call volumes experienced by the district will continue to rise at a commensurate rate, placing more stress on the district, its fire engines and most importantly, its firefighters. 

As the fire engines age, the likelihood of mechanical failures while they are out on call also increases which can waste precious minutes for another engine to reach the scene.

“Seven minutes is a critical time period, if they can get out the door and they can arrive on scene within seven minutes, for every minute after that, the severity of that call or the necessity of somebody to be there to service that call becomes greater and greater,” Owenby said. 

Warrenton Fire Protection District Board Members have stressed the importance of these tax and bond measures but, thus far, they have been unsuccessful. To date, the district has tried, and failed, to pass nine consecutive tax increases. 

Board members were unsure why they have not been able to pass the tax measures and bond issues they have proposed.They felt the public was unaware of the severity of the situation and did not have a complete understanding of what the consequences could be if they continue to fail. 

“This, in a sense, is our 911 call to our voters. We've gotten in such a bad spot with finances that we're really trying to appeal to the voters to get us to pass this bond issue so that we can be in a more stable position,” Owenby said. 

Vogelgesang mused that the failed measures on the April 2 ballot may have, in part, failed due to low voter turnout. 

While voter turnout tends to be higher in federal elections like the upcoming presidential election on November 5, the board feels they have good reason to move forward with the August ballot. 

Due to the deadlines associated with the bond issue, if they were to pass it in November instead of August, Vogelgesang said they would not see the funding until January of 2026, as opposed to January of 2025. 

“Our supporters are there, we just need to focus on education, focus on the importance of asking ‘hey, give us 15 minutes of your day, show up to vote.’ Then we’ll know, truly, what the community feels,” Vogelgesang said. 

WFPD, Finances, Bond Issue