Subscription based model will go into effect July 1
By Jennifer Jenks
The Burns City Council has adopted a rural fire suppression program. Phil Kessinger, a citizen of Harney County who has been working with county residents to promote rural fire suppression activities since he moved here about five years ago, addressed the county court last Wednesday, March 21, about the new program.
The Burns Rural Fire Suppression Program will officially begin July 1 of this year, but subscriptions can be acquired now.
The program will serve to enable the City of Burns to more efficiently and effectively provide fire suppression services to properties located outside the city limits, reduce the cost of fire suppression services to the owners of these properties and improve the infrastructure and capabilities of rural fire suppression in Harney County.
Since the 80s, Kessinger explained, there have been several major efforts to get a rural fire district started, but this is different. Instead of being tax-based, the service will be subscriber-based, a bit like AirLink services, Kessinger said.
Subscribers will pay $100 per year for each tax lot and will be charged a minimal rate of $100 per hour for services if they are needed.
Those who are not subscribers will be charged the full rate of $300-$400 per hour. It usually takes about two to three hours for each rural call, Kessinger stated. The service area is up to approximately 10 miles north, south and east of Burns. Areas west of Burns/Hines are already covered through a Hines fire suppression program.
Even though the subscriptions don’t go into effect until July 1, Kessinger is encouraging county residents to start the process now, as properties will need to be inspected by the fire chief to make sure fire department personnel can get there and get there safely.
At the present time, Kessinger explained, Burns Volunteer Fire Department is responding rurally, but they are starting to feel a monetary pinch. In the future, they will probably only respond to those fires on properties owned by subscribers, he said, as their primary responsibility is to Burns residents.
Not only is this new program a boon for county residents, Kessinger stated, but will also help with economic development as people may be more likely to move to rural Harney County if they know they can subscribe to a fire suppression program.
Kessinger hopes they can get more than 100 subscribers within the next few years. Once there is a steady stream of money coming in for the program, extra funds will go toward rural fire infrastructure development, such as training, fire trucks and rural satellite stations.
Contracts, program descriptions and maps of the service area are available at Burns City Hall, 242 S. Broadway.