By Vinde Wells
Just over a week after its privately-owned ambulance service closed down, Oregon’s ambulance calls continue to be answered by neighboring fire departments.
Oregon Fire Chief Don Heller said Monday that for the time being ambulances from other communities will answer ambulance calls in the Oregon Fire District.
“I won’t have anymore information until after our meeting on July 9,” Heller said. “I won’t have anything more to say about the ambulance until after that.”
The Oregon Fire Protection District Board of Trustees will hold its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday, July 9 at 7 p.m. at the administration building at 106 S. First St., Oregon. The meeting is open to the public.
One of the topics that will likely be discussed is holding a referendum that would allow the fire district to tax district residents for an ambulance service run by the fire department.
Heller said the earliest that could appear in the ballot would be the Nov. 4 election. The deadline for filing referendum documents is in August.
The privately-owned Oregon Ambulance Service Inc. closed its doors at 6 a.m. on June 17 with little warning.
Betty Ferris, who co-manages the service with her husband Jim, told the fire board about the plans to close on June 11.
She later said the reasons were financial.
Heller immediately began enlisting help from neighboring fire departments, which have tax-supported ambulance services.
The district, which is 120 square miles and bordered by 10 other fire districts, includes all of Oregon-Nashua Township and portions of Pine Creek, Pine Rock, White Rock, Rockvale, Marion, Grand Detour, and Taylor Townships.
Heller said the district has been divided up in segments with each neighboring fire department covering the area closest to it.
Mt. Morris and Byron have been designated to handle calls within the City of Oregon.
Oregon is the only fire department in the area without an ambulance service funded by property taxes.
The Oregon Fire District was formed in 1977 after a referendum was passed in 1976.
Prior to that the fire department was owned by the City or Oregon.
Because it was city-owned, rural residents were required to pay for calls.
According to the fire department website, in 1975 the charge for rural fires was $150 for the first hour and $100 an hour thereafter, usually paid by insurance.
Problems arose as some rural residents did not pay and city deficits increased.
The Oregon Ambulance Service Inc. was formed in 1971 as a not-for profit corporation.
Don Fuller, Oregon, said a local committee sought ways to form an ambulance service after the local funeral home that ran an ambulance then decided to discontinue it due to increasing state regulations.
Money for the ambulance service was raised by subscription.
Fuller said subscribers gave donations and in return were charged a reduced amount if they needed the ambulance.
Fuller was the first treasurer for the fledgling ambulance service.