Well, you see, it goes way back in time. (Wait! It starts the same as the history of SLA, but it really is different!) The town, not City, of Yachats had lots of homes, gas stations and businesses and a core of friendliness to help their neighbors. Wood-burning stoves were the most common form of heat, wood shingles were on every roof, and sheet rock hadn’t been invented yet. House fires were MUCH more common, and those that lived here would run to help when a house caught on fire. Eventually, the people thought that if they organized themselves into a volunteer fire department, they could collect donations and buy some equipment to make themselves more efficient. They did, and the Yachats Volunteer Fire Department (YVFD) was born. Some hose and hand pumps were bought, and axes and shovels, and somebody volunteered an old truck to haul it all in. For years, it survived on donations; volunteer labor, some materials and occasional cash from a fund-raising event like a dance with a record player and some decorations. (Want to see the poster? Stop by our station and ask somebody. We still have it.)
After a bit, the cost of all things fire-related grew beyond the donations received. Research revealed that Oregon law allowed for the existence of a government entity called a Special District. This was something created for a special purpose, such as Fire Protection, and it was independent of city or county boundaries or constraints. Moreover, Special Districts were allowed to levy taxes to support their purpose. The organizers started asking around about who would be interested in joining a new fire district. At the time, the City of Waldport had their own Fire Department, but it was not allowed to service anyone outside their city limits. When the word got out about a possible new district, the folks that lived south of Waldport wanted to be included. District boundaries were formed to include the TOWN of Yachats and everywhere on or near US 101 up to Waldport. The request was submitted to the state, a petition was signed and in March of 1949 the Yachats Rural Fire Protection District (YRFPD) was born. Annexations into the District have since occurred as houses were built near the boundaries, and about 15 years ago the Yachats River Valley was annexed into the YRFPD, at the request of the residents. YRFPD is overseen by a five-person, elected, unpaid Board of Directors.
Somewhere along the line, the people in the town of Yachats got themselves organized and elected to become a City, one big reason being that government funding was not available to a “town” to help build the sewer system that the County was demanding.
So, what is YRFPD? The mission of the District is to oversee the operation of the Fire Department, and to levy the taxes necessary for its operation. 95-97% of the funding of the district comes from property taxes, with the remainder from grants, private donations and refunds from various vendors and agencies.
Although all of the City of Yachats is completely within our fire district, we are NOT a City Fire Department. We don’t answer to the city government, nor do we receive any funding from them. (At our old station, we did get our water at a flat rate, and we thank them). Taxpayers in the city, just like anywhere in the District, are responsible to pay the taxes we levy on improved property. One end of our district is at the City’s south boundary and it reaches all the way to Waldport as well as 10 miles up the Yachats River Valley.
We have mostly paid employees, and, unfortunately, only a few volunteer firefighters. We do our best to get the most use out of our equipment, both small and large. We do much more than fire, as we also respond to all types of rescues, all medical calls, and many, many general assistance calls. Our goal is to do the most we can, with the tools we have, to help the citizens or our district and the visitors passing through.
The Yachats Rural Fire Protection District is the agency responsible for fire suppression, rescue and emergency medical services north of the Lincoln County line to the southern city limits of Waldport. North of the Big Creek Bridge (mile post 160), ambulance service comes from Pacific West Ambulance, but YRFPD still responds to assist within our fire district. There are NO state or county agencies responsible to provide these emergency services if YRFPD is unable. The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office provides law enforcement here, along with the Oregon State Police along US 101 and in the State Parks.
Is there still a Yachats Volunteer Fire Department? Yes. The Department still exists, but its name is not as relevant as before. Starting about 20 years ago, throughout the country, vast numbers of volunteer firefighters were leaving the fire service, and almost no new volunteers were joining. For a long time, Yachats was spared this change, and our volunteer ranks only slowly decreased, and the Department was able to continue as before. Over time, the societal changes caught up with us, and people no longer necessarily worked close to home, and fewer people worked with their hands. Also, Standards and requirements changed, and the classroom and hands-on training requirements greatly increased. The time commitment to become and remain qualified as a basic-level paid or volunteer Firefighter I is beyond the time resources of many. We currently have a total of three volunteer firefighters on our roster, two of whom are not always available at all hours.
So, yes, there still is a Yachats Volunteer Fire Department, but its name is becoming less accurate over time. YRFPD now employs six full-time, paid career Firefighter/ Paramedics or Firefighter/EMTs to provide the needed around-the clock emergency services for the District. Two is the absolute smallest number of people who can safely provide any fire, rescue or emergency medical services. In almost all fire and rescue efforts, we will be limited in scope until mutual aid arrives from our mutual aid partners to the north.