Strategic Plan identifies challenges and solutions to emergency service – Feb. 16, 2017

Camano Island Fire and Rescue held two well-attended community meetings to discuss its Strategic Plan earlier this year. Now, the Board of Fire Commissioners is discussing how to resolve challenges to providing emergency service moving forward.

Call volumes have increased almost 29% in the last five years for the agency. 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.

“We respect that people want to participate in funding decisions impacting emergency services,” said Fire Chief Michael Schick. “The elections process is one way to do that.”

Camano Island Fire and Rescue is considering asking the community to approve a fire levy lid lift to hire additional personnel to reduce response times and replace aging apparatus. The fire levy, which provides a majority of funding for emergency services, has not been increased since 2004.

“The demand for emergency service is outpacing the revenue we have to provide it,” said Paul Williams, who chairs the Board of Fire Commissioners. “The Strategic Plan is a blueprint for how we will solve these challenges moving forward.”

The Strategic Plan calls for adding two firefighters during peak call hours to reduce response times. This also will improve Camano Island Fire and Rescue’s ability to respond to multiple emergencies that come in at the same time – a growing issue for the district. Currently, the agency relies on help from neighboring fire districts, which can take longer.

Replacing aging apparatus (such as fire engines, ambulances and water tenders) is also a focus of the Strategic Plan. Despite regular maintenance, some apparatus breaks down and can delay response times. The goal of the fire district is to replace apparatus on a more regular basis to improve reliability.

The Board of Fire Commissioners will consider asking the community to fund additional personnel and an apparatus replacement program through a fire levy lid lift sometime in 2017. Public hearings on the lid lift will be held this spring. The amount being considered would raise the fire levy to $1.35 per $1,000 of assessed property value, and cost the owner of a $350,000 home an additional $7.88 per month.

The maximum a fire district can ask for is $1.50 per $1,000. However, Chief Schick says the fire district can improve service levels for less.

“We’re asking to fund a solid Ford or Toyota here – not a Cadillac,” he said. “It’s what we need to meet the demand for service.”

A copy of the Strategic Plan for Camano Island Fire and Rescue can be found by clicking on “Budget” under the “Resources” tab at Fire district residents with questions or comments are encouraged to contact Chief Schick at [email protected] or (360) 387-1512.