Camano Island Fire and Rescue and firefighters sign three-year contract – December 15, 2016

Camano Island Fire and Rescue and the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 4033 successfully concluded contract negotiations this month. Both parties unanimously approved a new three-year contract for the years 2017-2019.

“This was a positive process,” said Fire Chief Michael Schick. “We want to thank our firefighters for the work they do to save lives in the community every day.”

“This was a positive experience for both organizations,” said IAFF Local 4033 President Mike Rooks. “We are part of this community, and ready to meet the emergency service needs of our neighbors.” IAFF Local 4033 represents 22 career firefighters employed by the fire district.

Highlights include a cost of living adjustment for firefighters of 3% in the first year, 2.5% in the second year, and 2% in the last year of the contract. COLAs help the fire district retain experienced emergency personnel by keeping firefighter salaries competitive with other agencies in the region.

Camano Island Fire and Rescue also will cover an increase in health care insurance for firefighters of 9.5% in 2017. The fire district and union members agreed to a new wellness program for firefighters to reduce health care costs long-term. Firefighters experience higher rates of cancer and heart attacks than most professions, which is a concern for both parties. The wellness program, which is a new initiative endorsed by the Washington Fire Chiefs and Washington State Council of Firefighters, will provide additional screening and prevention efforts.

The number of emergency personnel will not change due to budget constraints. Call volumes have increased almost 33 percent in four years, and the fire district is dedicating all its resources to responding to the increased demand for emergency services. More calls mean added costs for personnel, apparatus, maintenance, fuel, equipment, and other supplies. In contrast, the fire district is limited to a 1% revenue increase per year by state law.

The fire district is considering asking the community to “lift the lid” on its fire levy sometime in 2017 to fund additional personnel as well as replace aging apparatus. These are priorities identified in a 10-year Strategic Plan recently completed by Camano Island Fire and Rescue.

“That conversation is coming up,” said Chief Schick. “In the meantime, we’re doing the best we can and our firefighters deserve a lot of credit.”

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Camano Island Fire and Rescue provides fire suppression, emergency medical service and technical rescue to 16,000 people over 40 square miles. Forty-nine full-time, part-time and volunteer firefighters responded to an average of 1,900 calls per year.