POLK COUNTY -- Christmas morning came a little early for the firefighters of the Southwest Polk County Rural Fire Protection District.
They got the fire engines they asked for.
"The firefighters are so happy," said Rod Watson, chairman of the fire district's board of directors. "They've been swarming over the new engines like bees."
Money for the four new engines was approved by voters almost three years ago.
Voters agreed to give the fire district $865,450 over the next 10 years for the tanker and three new engines.
The new apparatus, built by H&W Emergency Vehicles in Hillsboro, arrived last week. The Falls City and Rickreall stations get the two new engines.
The other engine, as well as the tanker, will respond to rural calls out of the Dallas station.
"It's a sense of great satisfaction for us to get these new engines," said Watson. "We're really grateful to the voters for what they provided us."
The new engines were badly needed, he said.
Falls City's main fire engine is an antique going on 40 years old. It was built in 1965. The engine at the Rickreall fire station dates from 1967.
Voters turned down a levy request in May of 1998. However, that was a five-year levy. By spreading the levy out over 10 years, district officials hoped to soften the tax blow.
The levy increased taxes by 33 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. The owner of a home assessed at $75,000 pays $24.75 per year. The owner of a home assessed at $100,000 pays $33.
The owner of a $150,000 home pays $49.50.
"It's a small price to pay for some good firefighting equipment to respond to fires," Falls City Fire Chief Bob Young said.
Southwest Polk is a separate entity -- with a separate tax base -- from both the Dallas and Falls City fire departments, although the fire district contracts with both communities.
Dallas and Falls City firefighters respond on rural Southwest Polk calls in their areas, but they do so on Southwest Polk apparatus.
The Rickreall fire station is the only station that is solely Southwest Polk.
Watson said the all-volunteer district provides a great service to the people of Polk County and does a good job with the money available.
"If we had to used paid firefighters, the cost would skyrocket," he said.