Gardiner merger into FD3 proposed

Switching from Jefferson County Fire District 5 to Clallam County Fire District 3 would provide Gardiner residents with faster fire protection and emergency medical response thanks to the full-time Blyn station that opened in September 2008.

That's the pitch a group of Gardiner residents will make to their neighbors during two meetings on the proposal set later this month at the Gardiner Community Center.

"We have a problem," said Klaus Hintermayr of Gardiner.

"We have a very aging population out here and the local volunteer department doesn't have any young volunteers.

"So I got together with

my neighbors and suggested approaching Clallam County Fire District 3, which has its new Blyn station, and see what it would take to get service from them."

Hintermayr said most of Jefferson County Fire District 5's volunteers live

at Discovery Bay, Quilcene and Port Ludlow.

"That's a long ways for a cardio situation. So it makes more sense to me if there's a paramedic at Blyn four miles away; that's a lot better."

Jefferson County Fire District 5 stretches from Discovery Bay through Gardiner to the Jefferson-Clallam county line.

Clallam County Fire District 3 serves about 30,000 residents in 135 square miles from east of Deer Park Road to the Jefferson County line.

The area that would switch districts includes Precincts 101 and 102 and Precinct 103 where Craig Road runs off Chicken Coop Road.

Clallam County Fire District 3's two-story, 7,563-square-foot station at Sophus Road and U.S. Highway 101, five miles west of Gardiner, opened in September 2008. It is staffed 24 hours a day by one firefighter and one paramedic.

Firefighters and EMS personnel from that station, supplemented by volunteers, would provide primary protection to the Gardiner area if a merger occurs.

The fate of Jefferson County Fire District 5's existing stations is yet to be determined, Hintermayr said.

"We'll see whether we have better luck getting volunteers, but that looks slim; the average age out here is 50-55.

"We're trying to find our way to make this work as quick as possible because the situation isn't going to get better. If we don't do anything, someone going to get hurt or worse."

Gardiner resident Herb Cook said the estimated response time from Blyn to Gardiner is about six minutes versus as much as 25 minutes from either Quilcene or Port Ludlow.

Cook said the goal is to obtain petition signatures from 60 percent of the affected Gardiner residents; then, no election would be necessary.

The petition would be sent to the Jefferson County auditor for validation, and then the Clallam County Fire District 3 commissioners would consider a resolution accepting it, he said.

"We don't know if 60 percent of the residents will

agree with us or not," Cook said.

If they don't obtain 60 percent, a petition with signatures from 15 percent of the residents could be sent by the Jefferson County Fire District 5 commissioners to the Clallam County Fire District 3 commissioners, he said.

A November election would be held and a simple majority would be required for the proposal to pass, Cook said.

David Bruell, vice president of the Washington Survey and Ratings Bureau, said Jefferson County Fire District 5 is rated Class 8 and Clallam County Fire District 3 is rated Class 6 effective July 1, based on a recent evaluation.

A higher fire protection rating can mean lower fire insurance premiums for property and business owners.

"If it's actually an extension of service, it potentially could affect Clallam 3's overall rating. So there's no guarantee that they would get the Class 6 rating since this would affect the entire district.

"A merger would be different, so there's a potential to change the district's rating but it depends on what they do," Bruell said.

Editor's note: See Page 16 for a letter to the editor on this topic.

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