In the last three years, Bend Fire and Rescue has reduced staff by close to 10 positions. Fire officials say with the way things are going, they may need to make more cuts to staffing -- or find a way to avoid it.
Fire officials say emergency service calls are increasing, and a reduction in staff would directly impact their ability to respond in timely fashion.
Bend Fire Chief Larry Huhn said Wednesday the department is seeking proposals from consultants for a study to find the best solution before having to cut staff and services.
It could hit you when you need it most. Your house is on fire, you're injured in an accident...will anyone be able to come to help you?
The Bend Fire Department says it'll get harder.
"We've cut close to 10 positions over the past three years," said Huhn. "And anticipate cutting far more positions if we don't correct our path that we're currently on with funding."
For the next 30 days, the department will accept proposals to find the right consultant for a 120-day study of annexation into Deschutes county Rural Fire Protection District No. 2, or other options for sustainable funding.
The findings will help determine what the council and rural board will do next.
"Our staffing is down, and our calls for service are up -- over the past three years, we've seen an increase in calls," said Huhn. "There is a lot more demand out there in the community."
In 2010, Redmond voters voted to annex their city fire and rescue into the rural fire district. Since taking effect last July, officials say it has been a success so far.
"At the time, all the research pointed to the best way to stabilize the organization was to annex the rural district," said Redmond Deputy Fire Chief Dave Pickhard. "From that point on, it's been an outstanding decision for everybody involved."
Huhn says annexation into the rural district is a prime option, but not the only one, although the rural fire district is helping the city fund the $60,000 study.
"We wrote the RFP (request for proposals) in a matter that was open to different ideas," said Huhn. "I really want the consultants to think outside the box, look at different solutions and be creative, and not just fall in the path, just because other departments have done it this way."
"It seemed to work in Redmond," said Huhn. "We need to find our own path to be sustainable as well."
The study is expected to be finished and ready to present to city councilors in early 2013.