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Letter: Fire District 1 Changes Save Little Money and Spread Resources Too Thin

Scott Hamilton of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1828 weighs in on some budget challenges within the district.

Editor's note:To read about Snohomish County Fire District 1 changes, click here to see a news release from the district. The changes do not directly affect the city of Edmonds, according to the district. 

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Snohomish County Fire District 1 has recently announced dramatic changes that are intended to save money but in reality will have minimal financial impact, and instead will, in the opinion of IAFF, Local 1828, spread resources too thin and will unnecessarily reduce levels of service to our citizens (see Herald, January 15, 2013). 

Snohomish County Fire District 1 is funded through property taxes and because of the economic downturn District 1 has had, on a short term basis, to deal with declining revenue. We have all had to work together to address this reality. For instance, in 2012 in an effort to help ease these budget challenges Snohomish County Fire District 1 Fire Fighters voted not to accept their scheduled cost of living wage increase. This sacrifice on the part of our members saved Fire District 1 and its contract cities $750,000. 

The goal of Local 1828 is to continue to provide solutions that will assist the Fire District 1 to remain viable on a long-term basis while also allowing the Fire District to continue to provide the highest levels of service possible. After working through the budgetary process over the past year it has become apparent to Local 1828 that Fire District 1 leadership is in need of some fresh ideas. 

Scott Hamilton, the President of Local 1828 said “as professional fire fighters we would welcome the opportunity to take a broader role in crafting any solutions that are necessary in order to get Fire District 1 back on track. We are looking forward to working with our fire department to come up with solutions that, unlike the changes that were recently announced by Fire District 1, will allow the Fire District to maintain optimal service levels and utilize the District’s resources appropriately.”

The Senior Leadership team within Fire District 1 has been struggling to come up with answers to address the difficulties caused by the combination of regional consolidation of fire departments and a short term reduction in fire department revenue. Local 1828 have a number of good ideas that can be utilized by the Fire District that will not result in unnecessary reductions in service levels.

Local 1828 believes the deployment choices recently enacted by Fire District 1 Senior Leadership team have increased response times and reduced levels of service. Local 1828 believes that our fire and life safety resources are currently spread too thin and this could have a devastating effect on response times. The District has not filled 14 positions that have become vacant and per the Fire Chief’s own hiring formula the District is actually understaffed with 18 fewer fire fighters. This fire department has not hired fire fighters since 2008. In addition, these recent deployment model changes will place a higher demand for service on our “automatic aid partners.” In other words, Fire District 1 is making staffing level changes that will place an increased burden on neighboring departments that share a common border with Fire District 1 to help manage the Fire and EMS call volume within Fire District 1.

As a reminder, fire doubles in size every minute and when someone has a heart attack seconds count. If we allow the current trend to continue, Local 1828 is concerned that property will be needlessly destroyed, the danger to the public will be increased, and the safety of Local 1828’s members will be endangered.”

The challenges we face in Snohomish County Fire District 1 are less about resources and more about how to appropriately manage the complex problems created by regionalization of the fire service. We can and must do better. There is too much at stake.

Snohomish County Fire District 1 Fire Fighters Local 1828 will be launching a public education campaign to promote solutions that will help us stay within our budgetary constraints with no or minimal impact on levels of service and public safety. We hope that we can work together with the Fire District to achieve solutions that will be in the best interests of the citizens of the District, the District, and the members of Local 1828.

—Submitted by Scott Hamilton, International Association of Fire Fighters – Local 1828

Diane B January 31, 2013 at 04:27 PM
The City of Edmonds, like Woodway, is under contract with FD1 and Edmonds pays roughly $6.3+ a year. The Regional Fire Authority, if approved first by City Council to move forward to the ballot, would allow voters to decide if Edmond wants to be part of a RFA taxing authority. The numbers provided by the RFA through this entire process were always moving and connectors and as a citizen, I would not want to risk something to create new taxes if I couldn't understand the fundamental foundation of municipalities - the numbers.

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