Plan Identifies Need for Personnel and Apparatus Replacement

Langley, WA – The Board of Fire Commissioners for South Whidbey Fire/EMS approved a five-year Strategic Plan during a recent meeting.  The Plan identifies how it will meet challenges to service for an aging population and increasing emergency call volumes.

The top initiatives in the Plan are to improve survival chances for victims of fire and emergency medical calls. The fire district is considering asking voters to approve a 30-cent fire levy lid lift in 2020 to hire up to eight full-time firefighter/emergency medical technicians and replace aging apparatus.

“Call volumes continue to increase, and we need more firefighters to respond,” said Fire Chief Rusty Palmer. “These individuals will be cross-trained as EMTs because almost 80 percent of our calls are for emergency medical service.”

The Strategic Plan also calls for improving the community’s fire insurance rating. This rating is linked to the amount home and business owners pay in insurance premiums.

Staffing and apparatus deficiencies resulted in the insurance rating being downgraded in 2018. Seven cents of the 30-cent lid lift would go towards apparatus replacement. The goal is to pay cash for these capital items instead of financing them which costs taxpayers more due to interest payments.

“Modern apparatus can improve our insurance rating, which would lower premiums for some home and business owners,” said Chief Palmer. “And less debt makes our fire district more secure financially in case of an economic downturn.”

A full copy of the Strategic Plan can be found on the website at www.swfe.org under “Public Information.” South Whidbey Fire/EMS will host a series of meetings to take public input on the fire levy lid lift sometime this spring. If approved by the Board of Fire Commissioners, voters would see the proposal on their August 4, 2020 Primary Election ballot.

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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.