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Published: Thursday, March 15, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Rethinking fire protection in south county



  • Kevin Fetter, a firefighter/paramedic with the Snohomish County Fire District 1, extends the ladder for a training exercise in 2010.

    Herald file

    Kevin Fetter, a firefighter/paramedic with the Snohomish County Fire District 1, extends the ladder for a training exercise in 2010.

Fire protection agencies all over are struggling to pay the bills. Property taxes are the main source of income, and property values have dropped. Agencies in south Snohomish County are looking for new ways to work together, share resources and survive. Here are the ways it could shake out.

South Snohomish County now is served by two fire districts, plus city fire departments in Bothell, Lynnwood and Mukilteo.

For about a year, everyone but Bothell has been talking about forming a regional fire authority to serve most of the area between Everett and the south county line.

Fire districts generally serve unincorporated areas. They are governed by boards of commissioners. A fire authority would create a new government body that can levy taxes.

The cities of Edmonds, Brier, Woodway, Mountlake Terrace and Mill Creek all contract with fire districts. Lynnwood is in talks with Fire District 1 that could lead to a contract. Merger talks also are under way again between District 1 and District 7.

Meanwhile, Bothell plans again to attempt to annex an area now served by the fire districts.

For fire agencies, land means money, and therefore politics.

Emergency services in the south county cost millions of dollars per year. The regional fire authority wouldn't be ready for the ballot until 2013 at the soonest. So far, no local government has committed to join it.

Regardless, voters can expect an earful in the coming months.

South Snohomish County fire districts by the numbers

District 1District 7
Square miles served45.650.0
Approximate population220,00070,000
Total employees218.00103.65
Chief's salary$159,878$155,719
2011 calls for service18,6574,879
Fire stations127
2012 general fund revenues$36,145,926$16,162,988
2012 general fund expenditures$35,889,322*$16,829,866*
2011 general fund revenues$38,934,557$17,637,164
2011 general fund expenditures$37,550,816*$18,206,749*

* The districts spent more than they brought in through revenue by tapping other sources, such as reserve funds.

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