Fire District 3 to add battalion chiefs, firefighters

Officials mulling levy lid lift in 2023

SEQUIM — Personnel additions and designs for fire stations headline some of the bigger expenditures for Clallam County Fire District 3 next year.

Whether or not fire commissioners will ask voters for a levy lid lift remains undecided, but it is part of the 2023 budget — tentatively up to $100,000 — along with costs involved in running a fire commissioner race, according to district documents.

“We need to make a decision fairly soon because there’s timelines involved,” District 3 chief Ben Andrews said in a phone interview.

“There’s a lot of conversations to [come].”

Although it is based in Sequim, the fire district’s 142-square-mile service area extends about 3 miles east of the Clallam County line into what was formerly a portion of Jefferson County Fire District 5. That portion was annexed into Fire District 3 in 2008.

Any decision on a levy lid lift will wait until 2023, but first, commissioners unanimously approved the district’s approximate $14.4 million budget on Nov. 15.

Fire district staff said about $9.8 million is funded by the general property tax, and $3.2 million from the EMS property tax. The remainder will largely come from reserves to cover some capital projects and equipment replacement.

More staff

Included in the 2023 budget is the district’s plan to hire three battalion chiefs, with one of those being an internal change in position title (training officer).

District staff also plan to hire five more firefighters at some point in 2023, bringing its total to 49 full-time firefighters.

“It’s a big change for us,” Andrews said of adding battalion chiefs. “We’re becoming a larger, more-complex organization.

“A battalion chief is really leading the entire [24-hour] shift and responsible for the whole district. They’re not tied to one station or vehicle and can coach, mentor and train with [firefighters].”

Andrews said the battalion chiefs will take on some of the administrative duties from the three chiefs. Those administrators absorbed some duties after a third assistant chief position was not replaced in 2020 following a retirement.

Battalion chiefs also serve as succession planning positions, too, he said, as they could be training to be the next district chief/assistants.

Andrews said chiefs manage the day-to-day operations while battalion chiefs will manage the hour-by-hour activities.

Contract negotiations for the battalion chief positions remain ongoing, he said, and at least two of the three will be hired internally.

Both the battalion chiefs and new firefighter positions will be opened to the public in early 2023, district staff said.

It’s unclear right now how many will need to be either paramedics or emergency medical technicians, Andrews said.

Two of the firefighter positions will be used to fill vacancies for sick leave, holiday leave and other absences, and the other three firefighters will be split among the three shifts, he said.

Stations

Planning and design work continues to replace Carlsborg (Station 33) and Dungeness (volunteer station 31) stations.

According to the budget document, about $443,000 is moved from reserves for permitting, planning and other elements.

Previously, Andrews said Carlsborg station could be moved across Carlsborg Road next to the district’s shop, and Dungeness station to Anderson Road just west of Marine Drive. District staff said having the designs ready could help secure outside funding.

Call load

District staff budgeted $120,000 for reimbursement of Olympic Ambulance next year after commissioners voted unanimously in September to extend the “Ambulance Transport Billing Credit” to all residents and property owners transported by the private company.

How much the actual cost will be is unknown, district officials said, but the cost will be reevaluated quarterly, and any fees not covered by insurance will be covered for residents and Olympic Ambulance using the district’s EMS levy revenue.

Staff budgeted $10,000 less in ambulance emergency service fees in 2023 ($90,000 from $100,000) because of what Andrews calls a “blip” earlier this year. He said Olympic Ambulance had staffing shortages in early 2022 so the fire district took on many transports of patients, but that’s since leveled off after they hired more staff.

Fire district staff anticipate more than 8,050 calls for service this year, compared with 8,404 calls in 2021.

Other expenditures

Next year’s budget also includes line items for:

• $100,000 to remodel Sequim Station 34’s kitchen

• $153,000 for monitors and defibrillators

• $253,233 for three new trucks, $150,000 for a brush rig

• $130,000 for new bunker gear

• $62,000 for computer hardware replacement

For more on Clallam County Fire District 3, call 360-683-4242 or visit ccfd3.org.

_______

Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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