Would you like that supersized, sir?

Published on Thu, May 24, 2001
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Would you like that supersized, sir?

by Brendan Schriane

Whatcom County Fire District 13 chief Dave England is floating a proposal that would create a 150 square mile fire district with 12 stations in northwest Whatcom County. The plan would unite fire districts three, five and 13 as well as the city fire departments of Blaine and Lynden.

Reached after the May 15 district 13 strategic planning committee’s monthly meeting where he presented a discussion paper on the topic, England explained the rationale behind establishing the new district. “As there’s a continuing demand for increased service but little possibility of increasing the funds we’ve got to find ways to do our job more efficiently and this one is a natural,” he said. “The primary compelling reason for doing this is to avoid unnecessary duplication.”

The new fire department would be split up into three divisions, each headed by an assistant chief. One chief would oversee operations, another fire prevention while the third would take care of training. The three assistant chief would report to a head chief.

The operations arm would take care of the day-to-workings of the department such as staffing, purchasing and upkeep of vehicles. The fire prevention unit would take care of building inspections and public education. The training section would keep the firefighters up to date on the latest policies and procedures.

“All of this is possible with not one dime of increased funds,” England said.

“I see these numbers being very positive in terms of doing this without costing more money,” Blaine mayor Dieter Schugt said. “Putting more money on the table in order to do the thing you’re talking about is a very positive way to approach people who are looking to cut their taxes.”

Prompted by district three’s chief Rob Neale’s recent retirement, England felt the time was right to float a proposal that would save lives, property and maybe some money for the taxpayers. “A window of opportunity has opened for us to at least consider whether it might be feasible now, particularly in three fire departments at least two of which have completed strategic planning. All of the strategic planning has told us we need to seek partnerships.”

The districts would not merge right away. They would have an exploratory period before actually consolidating, much like the current Blaine – district 13 agreement. The issue will be discussed at 7 p.m., June 5 at the Birch Bay station at a commissioners meeting of districts five and 13.

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