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JULY 28, 1997

Local News

Council hears fire services study

  by Andrew Walgamott
   A fire services study concluded there was no overriding reason for the city to part with the Woodinville Fire and Life Safety District (WFLSD). But it recommends the city check in on WFLSD progress on response times, operation of a new downtown fire station and other issues in 1999.
   Last week, the City Council heard final results of the study done by the Charlie Earl Company. The consultant was commissioned last October to study whether the city was still getting equitable fire services since annexing to the district at incorporation. The consultant was also asked to recommend whether the city should remain annexed, start its own district or contract with another service provider.
   The report found city residents and business were receiving equitable service. Residents and businesses provide 30 percent of WFLSD revenue and account for 31 percent of total fire and emergency medical service (EMS) calls. Compared to cities such as Anacortes, Camas, Centralia and Tumwater, taxpayers in Woodinville pay a relatively higher price for protection. But WFLSD officials say that Woodinville's position among surveyed cities and districts
   is unique.
   "Where do you go in Washington and find a place like Woodinville?" Chief Steve Smith said. According to Commissioner Ben May, WFLSD provides not only professional fire and EMS service, but fire education and prevention, and post-event briefings for citizens among others. Other services include emergency management, hazardous materials response and permitting. According to the consultants figures, district firefighters in 1996 spent 305 hours training for a wide variety of emergencies, which May termed "quality hours."
   Mayor Bob Miller worries about WFLSD's response times. The report says that the average response time for fire calls within the city was 6.1 minutes, and 5.4 minutes for EMS calls. Average among surveyed cities was 4.7 minutes and 4.6 minutes respectively. Miller said the proposed downtown station would bring better response times to the city and district. Potentially located along the South Bypass, the station would enjoy quick access to major arterial streets.
   The report concludes that the city should take WFLSD up on a joint cooperative oversight venture. In finding no reason to withdraw, the report says WFLSD provides a wide range of high quality services and that it would be difficult for the city to match that spectrum at a cost the district provides them already.
   This Monday the council is expected to act on the consultant's report. WFLSD serves approximately 45,000 people in a 36 square-mile area. It has a fire insurance rating of 3 on a scale of 1-10. Only four districts state-wide have a higher ranking.