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Langley, WA –South Whidbey Fire/EMS is hosting two virtual meetings to answer questions about its Fire Levy lid lift request on the August 4 Primary Election ballot. If approved, funding would be used to replace emergency apparatus, and hire up to eight full-time firefighter/EMTS to respond to higher call volumes.

The meetings will be held on Wednesday, July 15 and the following Thursday, July 23 from 7:00-8:00 p.m. using virtual technology. Due to social distancing guidelines, interested parties can attend the meetings using a computer, tablet, smart phone, or dial-in telephone.

Fire Chief Rusty Palmer will deliver a short presentation and then take questions. Those unable to attend, but still have questions are encouraged to contact Chief Palmer personally at 360-321-1533 or

The Fire Levy lid lift would be $0.30 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Of this amount, $0.07/$1,000 would fund apparatus replacement. Twenty-three cents per $1,000 would hire up to eight full-time firefighters to respond to call volumes that have increased 12 percent since 2014. Deficiencies in apparatus and staffing downgraded the Fire District’s community insurance rating, which is linked to how much property owners pay in insurance premiums.

If the lid lift is approved by voters, the Fire Levy rate would change from $0.65 to $0.95 per $1,000 of assessed property value. (By way of comparison, the Fire Levy rate for the Fire District was $1.00 in 1990.) The additional cost would be approximately $10 per month for the owner of a $400,000 home. If passed in 2020, the lid lift would be collected in the spring of 2021.

The Fire District has been sharing the challenges it is facing to provide an adequate emergency response for several months. Historically, South Whidbey Fire/EMS has relied on part-time paid and volunteer emergency responders. The number of people volunteering to serve has declined as call volumes have increased resulting in the need for full-time staffing.

Full-time personnel would improve response times, and guarantee an adequate 24/7 emergency response for the South Whidbey community, which the Fire District is unable to do currently. It also will provide volunteers with some breathing room and keep them involved.

“This is about meeting the demand for emergency services, first and foremost,” said Chief Rusty Palmer. “It also will improve our community insurance rating and help us continue the tradition of volunteering at our fire department.”

More information about the fire levy lid lift can be found on the website under “Public Information.”


  • Date: July 10, 2020
  • Contact: Chief H.L. “Rusty” Palmer
  • 360-321-1533


South Whidbey Fire/EMS provides emergency services to 15,600 people over 66 square miles. The fire district has some full-time and part-time personnel, but relies primarily on volunteers to respond to an average of 2,600 calls a year. The fire district operates under a balanced budget and has a proud history of passing its financial and accountability audits by the state. In 2017, it earned a double-A rating with a leading bond agency because of its sound financial practices.

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