Morefire protection coverage expected in 2007

Published on Thu, Nov 16, 2006 by ack Kintner

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More fire protection coverage
expected in 2007

By Jack Kintner

If plans by the North Whatcom Fire and Rescue Service (NWFRS) work out, fire stations at Birch Bay, Lynden and Blaine will all have 24/7 staffing by next summer thanks to last week’s election results and a $414,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

This is the hope, at least, as described by chief Tom Fields and the North Whatcom Fire and Rescue Services (NWFRS) board of directors meeting last Monday.

Additionally, Fields said, juggling some staff assignments would also provide overnight medical staffing and a basic life support aid car for the currently un-manned station on Semiahmoo Parkway. Medical response provides the bulk of NWFRS calls.

The staffing for adequate fire and emergency response (SAFER) grant was announced by Senator Maria Cantwell in a phone call to Fields on election day, November 7.

Preliminary results of three ballot issues reported that same day will result in even more money becoming available for increased staffing, Fields said, as Whatcom County fire district three voters approved a merger with fire district 13 and district 13 voters decisively approved a levy increase.

A third measure, to also raise the levy lid in district 3, was narrowly losing by 33 votes out of 4,920 cast at press time.

The election will be certified on November 28, although NWFRS directors expressed some concern over the possible effect of erroneous ballots on which the levy measure was either missing or had been sent to the wrong voters by the Whatcom Coun?If plans by the North Whatcom Fire and Rescue Service (NWFRS) work out, fire stations at Birch Bay, Lynden and Blaine will all have 24/7 staffing by next summer thanks to last week’s election results and a $414,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

This is the hope, at least, as described by chief Tom Fields and the North Whatcom Fire and Rescue Services (NWFRS) board of directors meeting last Monday.

Additionally, Fields said, juggling some staff assignments would also provide overnight medical staffing and a basic life support aid car for the currently un-manned station on Semiahmoo Parkway. Medical response provides the bulk of NWFRS calls.

The staffing for adequate fire and emergency response (SAFER) grant was announced by Senator Maria Cantwell in a phone call to Fields on election day, November 7.

Preliminary results of three ballot issues reported that same day will result in even more money becoming available for increased staffing, Fields said, as Whatcom County fire district three voters approved a merger with fire district 13 and district 13 voters decisively approved a levy increase.

A third measure, to also raise the levy lid in district 3, was narrowly losing by 33 votes out of 4,920 cast at press time.

The election will be certified on November 28, although NWFRS directors expressed some concern over the possible effect of erroneous ballots on which the levy measure was either missing or had been sent to the wrong voters by the Whatcom County Auditor’s Office.
This also happened with ballots for voters in district 13, but there the levy measure passed overwhelmingly.

At press time, Whatcom County election supervisor Pete Griffin said that no recount was planned, though sources who declined to be named said that if the vote to raise the levy lid in district three fails “it could be worth as much as $750,000 in lost income for the fire departments affected.”

Six career firefighters were added to NWFRS ranks last month. A training class for another six career firefighters was planned to begin in February of 1007, but the new funding assured by the grant now allows NWFRS to increase that February class to 10.
Another class of 10 is planned to begin next May depending upon funding availability.

The total of 20 vacancies were advertised on Tuesday of this week, anticipating the lengthy qualification process applicants must go through before being invited to join the next training class.
The grant for increased staffing pays off in decreasing amounts over five years. It costs about $62,000 for the district to hire one full-time entry level career firefighter with benefits.

Fire districts three and 13 will cease to exist once the election is certified. The new fire district will have 45 pieces of firefighting apparatus in ten stations covering 147 square miles.

When all 20 firefighters complete their training, the district will have 37 career firefighters and more than 80 volunteers with stations at Birch Bay, Blaine and Lynden staffed 24 hours a day.