Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue Shares Station Challenges

Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue passed a Capital Facilities Plan last year that outlined how it would consolidate and improve nine fire stations. The purpose of these projects is to improve community safety and create a healthier work environment for firefighters.

Capital facilities are too expensive to fund through the District’s regular operating levies. The Board of Fire Commissioners is considering asking voters to approve a bond to fund these projects. The bond is projected to be 32 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value. At this amount, the average homeowner would see a net decrease of $24 per year in the taxes they pay to the District compared to what they paid in 2019. This is because an excess levy has expired and an old bond for apparatus will be paid off before the new bond would take effect in 2021.

Fire Chief John Oliver says that this is an opportunity to meet the District’s capital facility needs for 50 years while reducing impacts to taxpayers. Chief Oliver is planning tours of the existing facilities for interested community members later in the year. In the meantime, he wanted to profile some of the more challenging station issues.

Seismic Issues:
The fact is that all of the District’s stations are not up to current seismic standards and are in danger of collapsing in the event of an earthquake. This would hamper the District’s efforts to reach people during an emergency.

Stations 52 (Olympic View), 54 (Hintzville) and 55 (Lake Tahuyeh) are located in areas away from population centers. This delays response times for emergency calls.

The bond would replace Station 52 with a new facility at Anderson Hill and Olympic View. It also would combine stations 54 and 55 into one facility at Coho Way and Seabeck Holly (Station 57) to better serve the Lake Symington area.

“Some of our stations were donated or built before we knew where our population centers would be,” said Chief Oliver. “We have the chance to fix that now.”

Firefighter Health & Safety:
Cancer is a leading cause of death for firefighters. Some of the District’s 60-year old stations lack effective diesel exhaust removal systems and decontamination areas to reduce firefighter exposure to carcinogens and infectious diseases.

Captain Brock Shaffer took time to share information about Station 51 (Silverdale). This is one of the busiest stations for the District.

“The asphalt in the parking lot is falling apart. The roof leaks and the main sewer drain backs up. That’s inconvenient, but there’s more,” said Captain Shaffer. “We have a problem with diesel exhaust in the laundry room. We use that room to decontaminate our gear after fire exposure. We have vents to circulate air around the gear, but diesel fumes come in from other parts of the station as rigs are dispatched.”

Security is also a concern. Station 55 (Lake Tahuyeh) is in a remote location and has been subjected to several break ins. Many of the District’s stations lack proper security systems to protect the facilities and personnel who use them.

The size of emergency apparatus has increased since most of the District’s stations were built 60 years ago. Most of the current facilities cannot shelter modern fire engines, water tenders or ambulances, which represent a significant investment for taxpayers. This leaves them exposed to weather and reduces their usable life.

Next Steps:
More information on the proposed bond can be found on the District’s website at ckfrdev721.wpengine.com. The Board of Fire Commissioners will hold a public hearing on March 23, 2020 to take community input on the idea of a facilities bond. The meeting will take place at 4:30 pm at 5300 NW Newberry Hill Road in Silverdale (98383). Chief John Oliver also welcomes questions at joliver@ckfr.org or (360) 447-3566. If the Board decides to place a bond on the ballot, voters would see the proposal on their August Primary Election ballot.