Next year is all about adding people to help with Clallam County Fire District 3’s increasing call load.
Leaders with the Sequim area fire department look to add four more line staff in 2020 bringing the total of firefighters/EMTs or paramedics from 34 at the start of 2019 to 39 next year.
Fire commissioners authorized two new firefighters, with one hired so far and another three anticipated to be hired in 2020, District 3 Fire Chief Ben Andrews said.
“We’re a service industry, so we’re going to add as many people as the budget allows,” he said.
Fire district leaders are establishing a hiring list now for tentative interviews in the first quarter of 2020 for the four additional firefighters, Andrews said.
Volunteer firefighters are looked at first for potential employment, he said, before opening hiring to the outside.
When hired, firefighters will go through a training and orientation and it will take a few months before being added to rotations.
When in rotation, the hires will add one more person per 24 hour shift, Andrews said.
Fire District 3 currently has 11 people per shift, with a minimum of eight on duty allowing for sick days and vacation.
When hiring, Andrews said they’ll likely hire at least one firefighter/paramedic but the district doesn’t have a preference for an EMT or paramedic so long as the numbers are even for each shift.
Alwynn Whitaker, the fire district’s finance manager, said paramedics make about 10 percent more than EMTs.
Andrews said call volume is up about 5 percent from 2018, when about 84 percent of Fire District 3 personnel’s call load — just 6,273 calls — went to emergency medical treatment services.
Future staff additions
The possibility of adding more firefighters in the future remains open, too.
After turning down a Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) matching grant in 2017 due to budget concerns to add six full-time firefighters, Andrews said he “would anticipate we would try to apply for some positions.”
Fire district leaders applied again for a SAFER, Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, in 2018 but were denied this year, he said.
Andrews said they must wait for grant applications to come out again and see if the matching amounts would work for the district.
Adding positions wouldn’t have happened, Andrews said, if voters turned down renewing the district’s EMS levy of $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value, and lifting its general levy rate from $1.26 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2018.
Whitaker estimates next year’s expenses at about $10.9 million with 82 percent of costs, 56 total staff, going to personnel.
The district’s overall expenses for the year will be about $10.6 million after adding about $500,000 to settle line staff contracts and retroactive pay, and adding a classroom space at the Carlsborg Road shop.
As part of the line staff’s negotiations, the fire district will pay health care cost increases. Whitaker said the district covers 100 percent of costs for firefighters and 90 percent of costs for their dependents.
Along with adding staff, fire district leaders anticipate using a $321,000 grant and about $32,000 from general funds to upgrade radio equipment. Andrews said they’ll replace all handheld radios, some vehicle radios and possibly one repeater radio.
One ambulance is set for a new mount at a cost of about $160,000. The manufacturer will recycle the ambulance’s box to reduce costs, Andrews said.
In total, the fire district has nine ambulances in service.
Whitaker said they’ll also use a Sequim Dungeness Hospital Guild donation to increase Emergency Medical Services training resources.
“We’re doing as much as we can with the money we have,” she said.
Throughout 2020, staff look to present deeper looks at elements of the budget to commissioners and staff. Assistant Chief Eric Quitslund plans to present and begin discussions of a Capital Replacement Plan in the spring, too.
For more information about Clallam County Fire District 3, call 360-683-4242 or visit ccfd3.org.
Fire commissioners meet at 1 p.m. the first and third Tuesdays of each month at the fire district’s headquarters, 253 N. Fifth Ave.
Reach Matthew Nash at email@example.com.