Upper Palo Alto may annex into Fire District 3

Clallam County Fire District 3 Chief Steve Vogel said he's unsure of the percentage of upper Palo Alto Road area neighbors willing to annex into the district but indicated there was increased interest after a July 30 meeting at District 3 in Sequim to discuss the option.

"We are getting a few signatures in right now," Vogel said. "They need to get owners of 60 percent of the landmass to sign onto the annexation for the process to work."

State law prohibits fire districts, or other government entities, from providing free ser-vices, which has been happening in that area for 26 years. The fire district's commissioners gave the area until Sept. 1 to annex, after which responders would be unable to provide service to the neighborhood if it remains outside of the fire district.

"It's called no man's land," Vogel said. "It doesn't fall into any fire district and the section of land is amidst state (Department of Natural Resources) and national forest and park land."

Ann Seiter is one of the landowners ready to annex.

"Some neighbors are in favor, but some people have mortgages and may have concerns about additional taxes but still do not want to lose their 9-1-1 services, so we will see how it goes," Seiter said. "Lots of people are out of town, so it will likely take us some time to get the petition put together."

In an attempt at annexation more than a year ago, the signatures represented only about 35.8 percent of the land base.

If annexed, the properties would be charged an annual rate of $1.36 per $1,000 of assessed property valuation, so a $300,000 home would pay a $408 annual tax for fire services.

"Unfortunately, if they do not enter into the district, we will not be able to respond to a residential fire," Vogel said. "Fire districts across the state are dealing with these no man's land pockets."

While fire responses would end, the area still could be served by local, privately owned ambulance companies for medical responses.

Without the coverage, people could experience a surge in fire insurance rates. Vogel said the increased rates likely would be higher than the tax.

Also, the district began staffing its new Blyn fire station with volunteer firefighters last month. Soon the station will be staffed with volunteers and career firefighters, giving the entire area east of Sequim better coverage.

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