MARYSVILLE, Washington — The Marysville fire chief has proposed a property tax increase to helping bring an aging fire department up to date. Three fire houses need earthquake retrofitting, and aging aid cars have more than 300,000 miles on them.

Chief Martin McFalls started at the Marysville Fire Department in 1988 as a volunteer.

As he walked through his old sleeping quarters at Station House 61, not much had changed even 31 years later. 

"It's exactly the same except we had to add some lockers," he said.

What has changed is Marysville itself. The population has grown five-fold over the past 25 years, and the fire department has not kept up.

The number of calls continue to grow and the department answered more than 14,000 of them last year. The department is doing it with fewer firefighters than it had 11 years ago.

With that in mind, Chief McFalls is proposing a property tax increase that would add $130 to $250 a year to a $300,000 home, depending on its location.

"Proposition 1 would allow us to add 28 full-time firefighters over the next five to seven years, upgrade our equipment and facilities and plan for the future," the chief said.

But to McFalls, a lifelong Marysville resident, the levy this isn't just about improving apparatus and adding personnel.

"I'm not just staking my reputation on it, I'm staking my life on it," he said. "My family is here, my friends are here, my neighbors are here, my grandchildren are here. It means the world to me."

Proposition 1 is on the April 23 ballot. If approved, it would be Marysville's first tax increase for fire services in 12 years.