Happy New Year!
The Chief’s notes portion of our web site has become much like a State of the Department message. I had originally intended to update things more frequently than once a year, but that goal has not proved to be as easily accomplished as I once thought.
In 2010 I laid out some lofty goals and objectives for leading your Fire District forward. With the support of the Jefferson County Fire District #1 Board of Commissioners, the citizens who have responded to our requests for input and our dedicated volunteers and full-time employees, we have been able to respond to the growing demands for service and rebuilding of the infrastructure of the District and its equipment needs. We have expanded our administrative office hours for greater public access. An on-duty chief is also available 24/7 and can be contacted at 385-2626 should the need arise.
Enhanced Delivery of Services
In 2010 and subsequent years we promised to improve the delivery of our EMS services through better training and augmenting the number of available personnel. I am happy to report we have accomplished that goal with the addition of several recently trained paramedics. We also have one more student medic scheduled to complete the year-long process in September 2013.
Without the financial assistance of the Seattle Medic One Foundation and their grants of over $100,000 in tuition assistance since 2008, we could not have achieved our goal and the citizens we serve would not be able to expect the quality of advanced life support services now being delivered. East Jefferson Fire Rescue’s EMS service rivals any comparable service in the country. Our partnership with Jefferson Healthcare in a variety of areas has helped both organizations deliver to you many more services and a higher level than at any time in the past.
Over the past two and a half years we have been planning and implementing a strategy to replace some antiquated fire stations. If you have traveled through Chimacum lately you may have observed that construction of the new modern Wally Westergaard fire station 11 is underway, with completion scheduled this summer or early fall. Additionally, in 2011 the District completed the purchase of the Lawrence Street fire station from the City of Port Townsend. We still need to attend to our satellite station on Marrowstone Island which is in great need of repair or replacement. In addition, we need to construct a new administrative office space on the five acre site of the District’s Station 15 on Critter Lane.
Also on that site we have recently received a permit to construct a unique four-story training tower, a permitting process that has taken nearly five years to accomplish. All of the components for the training tower have been purchased a little at a time during that five-year period and are now ready to be assembled.
New, fully-equipped apparatus replaced severely outdated ambulances in 2012. This was only a partial solution and we still have a ways to go before the fleet is entirely up to standards.
Later this year we will be adding at least one additional new ambulance to the fleet and removing one that is close to 15 years past its service life. A long term vehicle replacement plan has been developed so that the District is not caught with such great needs at one time in the future.
This past week we replaced two of our aging fire engines with new, more fully-equipped and practical models selected for the kind of terrain we serve. These new engines have shorter wheel base chassis that are not encumbered by some of hills and driveways we encounter.
A third engine is in production and is scheduled to be delivered around the time of the completion of the new fire station in Chimacum. We will then have a fleet of identically equipped fire fighting apparatus.
Our marine firefighting capabilities are receiving a boost due to a 100% Department of Homeland Security Port Security Grant. The several hundred thousand dollar grant will be used to design and purchase a well equipment fire rescue boat allowing the District much greater ability to fight boat fires and help persons in need farther out into the channel. The limitations of our current vessel reduce our ability to reach the farthest corners of our marine response region. One of the reasons we were awarded this particular grant is the fact that we do not have as rapid a response from the Coast Guard in our area as some other locations around the Puget Sound and we have the everyday potential of an issue occurring within the ferry system. We expect the new fire boat to be online in about a year. Our current boat will be repositioned in the Cape George Marina for deployment in the Discovery Bay portion of our response area.
District Receives Better Rating
I wish to stress that voter approval in 2010 and 2011 of fire and EMS levy lid lifts has made all of these transitions possible. We have finally been evaluated as a whole County and City by the Washington State Survey and Rating Bureau as I indicated would occur in a previous posting. That agency is responsible for evaluating all aspects of the delivery of fire and EMS services, facilities, equipment, personnel, water systems or the ability to get a lot of water to the scene by tanker and deliver it. When adequate levy support is provided to your fire department which allows for the changes we are in the process of making, it affects the general good of the population by placing everyone in the position of acquiring a better WSRB rating. Your rating directly affects your annual homeowners’ insurance rates.
The scale has a very large number of points in excess of 2000, with different aspects of the fire department, PUD, 9-1-1 Dispatch Center and City of Port Townsend Building Department being evaluated. When the numbers are crunched a scale of 1-10 is applied with 10 being the worst in terms of how much your insurance will cost and one being the best and lowest rates. There are no one’s and a scant number of two’s and three’s in the State.
I am proud to announce that beginning in March the WSRB rating for the area we cover in the County will drop from a six to a five. How that affects each homeowner depends on how your particular insurance carrier utilizes the rating. It may serve you to shop different companies. According to the system used, although the City of Port Townsend kept its ‘five’ rating, it has progressed closer to a ‘four’ (the City ended up 99 points short of a ‘four’ rating). There was a period in 2009 when fire prevention and building inspections were suspended, which broke a mandatory 60 consecutive months of data collection and led to some demerits. With the implementation of agreements that allow the District Chief to be appointed as Fire Marshal for the City, and the reimplementation of a fully functional Fire Prevention and Inspection Division, that problem will be remedied. If you wish to view the final reports, click on the links after this letter.
I reported a year ago that with the 2010 levy passage the District is in good financial condition through at least 2016. Nothing has changed in that respect. We have looked out as far as five years and tried to anticipate any additional revenue decreases due to property devaluations and have accounted for that prospect. We will continue to provide the level of services consistent with the announced desires of citizens we serve.
The District and the City continue to move toward an eventual vote of the citizens on the City annexing into the Fire District for fire and EMS services. It is felt that vote should occur in 2014, after new property valuations have been established within the City limits. If approved, City voters would have the .43 per $1000 assessed value fire levy plus the value of whatever the equivalent dollars that are used to contract for services drop off of their tax bill and be replaced with a specifically noted fire levy which is currently set at $1.00 per $1000 of assessed valuation. No changes in the current EMS Levy rate would occur. City voters will then be able to vote on issues specifically related to the Fire District and will eventually have local representation on the Board of Commissioners.
Repeating our mission goals:
The mission of East Jefferson Fire Rescue is to make our community safer by protecting lives and property and caring for the needs of the people we serve. We will efficiently and effectively mitigate fire, health and other life safety hazards with a prompt, professional and positive customer experience.I thank the community for your continued support of the Fire District and we look forward to providing the best service possible. If you have any comments or questions please feel free to contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
East Jefferson Fire Rescue