January 18, 1999
ISSAQUAH--On Jan. 1, King County Fire Districts 10 and 38, plus the fire departments of Issaquah and North Bend, officially consolidated to form Eastside Fire & Rescue.
"It's not a merger," said former District 10 Chief Lee Soptich. "Mergers need to be approved by the voters. A consolidation is approved at the elected official level."
Soptich, now Eastside Fire & Rescue Assistant Chief, explained that the separate entities will continue to exist legally, but have agreed to combine resources while still maintaining ownership. "It's the best of both worlds," he said. "You might call marriage a merger, but we could call this a date."
The new fire district will protect 219 square miles and over 105,000 citizens. Issaquah Chief James Rankin was named chief of the consolidated department, which contains 16 fire stations and has a $12 million budget. Of 220 members, 120 are career staff. The headquarters, due to be remodeled, will be located at the old District 10 station on Newport Way NW.
According to department spokesperson Josie Williams, the action was taken in part to avoid duplication of services. "We actually had fire engines passing each other on the way to calls," she said. "The efficiency was just not there. It made sense financially to consolidate." She said a task force recommended the two departments consolidate last February.
At one time the two departments were one, but split from each other many years ago, Williams said, adding that the new name was picked with the help of employees' suggestions.
District 38, which covers the area around North Bend, and the North Bend Fire District had been contracting with the District 10 Fire Department for services and decided to be included in the consolidation. Snoqualmie, which had also contracted, opted to form its own department. The Fall City department will remain independent.
"There are benefits already," Williams said. "We already have one more person in North Bend 24 hours a day and another station will soon be opened in the new city of Sammamish."
Soptich, who was Carnation's fire chief from 1986 until a merger with District 10 in 1989, has been District 10 Chief since 1995. He said he will have some new assignments, including being in charge of safety and the budget.
"We just passed a bond and I will be busy attending to the bond funds," Soptich said. "We want to look at regional needs and place stations and equipment where the public needs them."
He noted that at one time the Issaquah and District 10 departments had stations across the street from each other. "This will certainly save us money by not duplicating services," Soptich said. "We will also be reducing staffing at the top which will enable us to hire more firefighters."