Northside Church Fire

More than 700 acres of land were engulfed in flames on Oct. 19, 2015 as a wildfire ripped through the northern portion of Walker County. Numerous agencies responded to the fire which started in the early afternoon after a tractor trailer which was carrying hay caught fire on FM 980 near FM 2628. The Crabbs Prairie Volunteer Fire Department, which now covers this area, is asking voters to support the establishment of a new Emergency Service District in November to help fund emergency services.

For much of northern Walker County, only one department has fire engines, trucks and equipment. 

A motion to expand that coverage will go before voters on November 5 as members of the Crabbs Prairie Volunteer Fire Department are petitioning to create a new emergency services district in Walker County. County Commissioners approved the ballot measure after a public hearing drew a large crowd, but lacked any outside comments.

“The only concern I have is that the boundary description for the proposed district doesn’t provide metes and bounds, so the question arises if the proposal is legally sufficient,” assistant district attorney Quentin Russell said. “If this was a conveyance, then I would say that the proposal does not meet a legal description, but for this purpose I have no objection. The crucial thing is that we can determine who are the eligible voters, and after speaking with the elections office I believe we can do that.”

The proposed Emergency Service District 3 would follow the Walker County line to the north, and the city of Huntsville’s extra-territorial jurisdiction to the south. The eastern side of the district will wrap around the current ESD 2, with the southwestern end running on the northside of Hwy. 30.

In all, the district will provide emergency response service to 112 roadways and portions of 13 other roadways. The only persons eligible to vote in the election will be those registered in the proposed service district. See the full lost of roadways in the district at www.itemonline.com

“Crabbs Prairie VFD covers one of the largest areas in Walker County … we run about as many calls as New Waverly VFD, but yet our funding comes strictly from the county along with community donations,” Crabbs Prairie VFD captain Conrad Liles said prior to the vote. “Our firefighters have other jobs, so their availability does not allow us to provide the same level of service that New Waverly does.”

New emergency service district proposed in northern Walker County

An Emergency Service District is a political subdivision, like a school district or hospital district, which is formed to provide emergency services like fire or medical care to a community. Walker County currently has two ESDs, with ESD 1 in the northeastern section of the county around Riverside and ESD 2 in the southeastern part of the county surrounding New Waverly. Crabbs Prairie and its sister station in Pine Prairie are the only two volunteer fire stations in Walker County not connected to an ESD.

If created, ESD 3 would be the largest emergency district in Walker County when it comes to total area.

Under state law, ESD tax revenues may be used to provide training, equipment and facilities for emergency services in the region. Those can include fire prevention, suppression and extinguishment, along with hazardous material incident responses, EMS first response and rescue services.

An ESD may levy a tax rate of no more than 10 cents per $100 of property value in the district. They may also levy a sales tax, but that would have to be approved by voters in a separate election.

Early voting for the November 5 election will be from October 21 through November 1.