Bothell’s fire chief and deputy fire chief of operations will now serve Woodinville as well as Bothell, in a new partnership between the two cities’ fire departments.
David Weed, community services officer for Woodinville Fire & Rescue, said the change won’t affect the service the community receives; it will only affect administration.
“There really isn’t a difference,” Weed said. “Whether you’re a fire chief of a three-station department or a seven-station department, it’s the same responsibilities, so it’s a very easy transition ... The citizens of Bothell and Woodinville aren’t going to notice any changes.”
As of June 1, Bob Van Horne, fire chief for Bothell, and Jim Roepke, deputy chief of operations for Bothell, will also serve Woodinville. Greg Ahearn was appointed deputy chief of administration for Woodinville.
Van Horne started working for the Renton Fire Department in 1981 and moved up the ranks to deputy chief. In 2009, he became fire chief for Bothell. He’s confident this new partnership will let the department maintain good service and perhaps improve.
“In this economy, we’re going to see that this consolidation will provide as good or better service to the communities,” he said.
The partnership will save money since each city will only pay half of the salary for the shared positions. Already, Woodinville and Bothell often respond to fires together.
“I’m going to try to treat the department as one as often as possible, especially for operations,” Van Horne said. But the administrative side — including budgets and policies — will still be different for the two departments.
Roepke, who has worked with the Bothell Fire Department for 26 years and been deputy chief of operations for the past three years, said the two fire departments will merge their training divisions and manage calls together, which will further help them be more efficient without duplicating positions or resources.
“The biggest change is just with call volume when you’re moving from three stations to six stations,” Roepke said. “So your span has doubled.”
Other communities already have similar administrative partnerships, Weed said, such as Eastside Fire & Rescue, which consolidated the fire departments of Issaquah, North Bend, Sammamish and several other cities.
Greg Ahearn, the new deputy fire chief of administration, has worked for Woodinville Fire & Rescue since 1983. He became a lieutenant in 1993 and a battalion chief in 2010. His main goal as deputy chief of administration is efficient operation of the administrative section, as well as supporting response operation.
“I’m honored to have been chosen and looking forward to serving in my new capacity,” Ahearn said.
The partnership between the Woodinville and Bothell fire departments will last two years, Van Horne said, although it could be canceled before then or extended longer.
It’s a way for Woodinville Fire & Rescue to try out a consolidation plan temporarily. If the fire department decides to consolidate, it won’t have to worry about firing a full-time chief.