Last June, flames ignited at a house on NE Yamhill Street in Sheridan in the early morning hours.
Firefighters from the Sheridan Fire Station were already responding to two other emergency scenes, so calls were routed to the closest districts, including Southwestern Polk County Rural Fire District and West Valley Fire District.
Two volunteer firefighters from Sheridan answered the call. Volunteers and career staff trickled in over the next 20 minutes.
Despite rescue efforts, two people trapped inside the home died. The house was a total loss.
Fire Chief Fred Hertel, who oversees the three predominantly volunteer-based districts, tells the story to illustrate what he says is a growing gap between needs and resources — an increasing number of calls stretching firefighters beyond their ability to respond in time
"And that scares me as an individual and as a fire chief that I'm expected to provide service when somebody calls 911 and I'm getting to the point where I know I can't provide that service," Hertel said.