Happy New Year and welcome to 2014! We’re bidding farewell to 2013 – a year of achievement of many goals and milestones for the District.
NEW FIRE STATION
Perhaps the most visible success was the opening of our new fire station in Chimacum, which has received overwhelming community support since its completion in October. I’m pleased to report that the new station came in within scope, on time and, best of all, within budget. This couldn’t have happened without years of hard work by our leadership staff and our dedicated fire commissioners.
We also placed our newest fire engine in service at the same time we opened the new station. The City of Port Townsend funded this third engine to offset funds owed to the District for services provided in 2011.
We now have a ‘first out’ responding fleet of fire engines from all three of our staffed stations which are identical in terms of the equipment they carry and the chassis they are built on. One benefit of this is that firefighters will be able to more quickly manage large incidents with multiple engines on scene. The same equipment has been placed in the same compartments on each engine, eliminating the need for them to familiarize themselves with each one.
In the near future we will add a ‘new-to-us’ water tender which has been built on a chassis we obtained from the Navy through the Department of Natural Resources. When delivered, it will replace one that has been leaking and having mechanical problems. Funding for the water tender was obtained through the monies we received by selling the old fire engines we just replaced.
One benefit of our 2010 levy lid lift has been to allow the District to dedicate a portion of each year’s budget to an apparatus replacement fund. We’ve ordered an ambulance that will replace one that is about 17 years old. We will continue to evaluate our fleet and replace and or remount ambulance boxes on new chassis on a scheduled basis. Last year we put nearly 293,000 fleet miles on our apparatus.
In late spring we will be introducing a new fire boat as part of our marine firefighting and water rescue division. The smaller boat we have had for several years will be relocated to cover the area of Discovery Bay and the new larger boat which will be more capable of working in the heavy waters off of Point Wilson will be located in Port Townsend’s Boat Haven. Our responsibilities extend far out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, with the farthest boundary being Smith Island.
Newly hired Assistant Chief Brian Tracer has been placed in charge of the marine program along with his many other responsibilities.
SERVICE DELIVERY IMPROVEMENTS
As I’ve mentioned previously, we’re constantly reviewing the quality and efficiency of our service delivery model. A review of our historical call volume showed that our greatest number of calls occurs between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. In response to this finding, we’ve have added one new full-time employee and have created a new 12-hour day shift. Our goal is to optimize our limited resources by staffing more people during peak busy times.
Another result of our service delivery model review is a reallocation of staff at each station. We’ve reallocated some staff to stations with higher historical call volume. For example, now the Lawrence St. Station has twice the staff (including at least one paramedic) it had from 2007-2012. That doesn’t mean that someone will answer the door every time the public knocks, but it does mean the likelihood is better. That station is a busy station when you combine their assigned daily responsibilities and emergency responses.
When we first developed our strategic plan in 2010, I outlined three important construction initiatives: reconstruction of Station 1-1 in Chimacum, an administrative facility on the grounds of Station 1-5 on Critter Lane and improvements at Station 1-2 on Marrowstone Island.
With the completion of Station 1-1 last fall, we’ll be turning our focus on the next initiative---the construction of an administrative headquarters on our land at 35 Critter Lane. The seven members of our leadership team and administrative staff are currently packed into temporary rental quarters on Seton Rd., along with many District files and other office equipment.
We’ll be carefully analyzing our remaining bond money to determine the feasibility of beginning construction later this year.
An area I haven’t addressed in previous Chief’s Notes is the work of our Training Division. Deputy Chief Ted Krysinski heads our fire training and fire operations and has developed an ambitious 2014 training program for all District personnel. Not only do our rank and file and chief officers have to regularly train to maintain firefighting and EMS skills, but due to the size of our District (over 70 square miles), we must account for the fact that back up resources are a long time out when something significant occurs. As a result, we must also develop skills not traditionally trained on by firefighters in urban fire departments. For example, because of the location and layout of our District, we respond to emergencies in the waters around Port Townsend and the Quimper Peninsula. So, we have begun training for shipboard firefighting emergencies.
We’ve also partnered with local and regional law enforcement agencies to better coordinate emergency response in the event of disasters or worse case scenarios such as an “active shooter” at a school or other venue. Unfortunately, a spate of recent incidents has shown us that no community, large or small---urban or rural, is immune from such a catastrophic event so it’s incumbent upon us to prepare. Fire department involvement and tactics have changed dramatically from just three years ago.
DISTRICT FIRE RATING IMPROVES
During 2013 the District’s fire rating improved. For some, that change reduced the overall cost of their homeowner’s insurance.
I have received phone calls from home owners whose insurance companies were not aware of the change in rating and in many instances it was because their data bases had not been updated. In other cases, it was because their insurance company simply used different criteria to determine rates.
Once again it is important to shop and compare, and know what your community’s fire rating should be. We can assist in answering that question if you call our offices. Generally speaking, the fire rating for both the District and City of Port Townsend is a five. However, there are still some caveats. You must be within five driving miles of one of our six fire stations. There must be an adequate supply of water or a hydrant system in place, or we must show that we can deliver a water supply to your location (which is called a tender credit).
The Washington State Rating and Survey Bureau is now implementing ½ point credits, so if one of the criteria above is implemented in the area of the County you reside in it is possible your rating may be 5.5 or even still a six, as it was before.
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
In the future, we will be partnering with Jefferson Transit after they’ve built their new facility. We have invested in the refueling station they will be building. This partnership will provide a central location for refueling our apparatus and will also save the District thousands of dollars per year in fuel costs due to the increased purchasing power of transit and their ability to pass those savings on to us.
Our 2014 agenda includes a reassessment of the District’s five year plan. Since our last one was published, we have met many of the goals outlined in it and will be building upon all of our success looking out towards 2018 and beyond.
One big goal for 2014 will be the annexation of the City into the Fire District. There are many benefits that City residents will experience with annexation, including a direct voice in the operations of their fire and EMS systems.
Gordon Pomeroy - Chief
East Jefferson Fire Rescue