Population and commercial growth in our fire district are some of the highest in the county. Higher call volumes have caused Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue to develop plans for staffing and replacing key emergency apparatus already.
The next step is addressing facility needs to improve community and firefighter safety. The Board of Fire Commissioners for CKFR recently approved a Capital Facilities plan to address these issues and to shelter expensive apparatus.
Community safety is our priority. Many of our stations are nearly 60 years old, and none are up to current earthquake standards. Several are located significant distances away from populated areas, which increases response times. Most stations are too small to shelter modern apparatus, which leaves these investments exposed to weather and reduces their life span. Some lack facilities to accommodate a multigender work force, and living quarters that could allow for 24-hour staffing.
We also need to provide a safer operating environment for the firefighters who serve our community. Cancer is a leading cause of death in firefighters, and some of our stations lack effective diesel exhaust removal systems and decontamination areas. Many facilities also do not have security systems, commercial fire alarms or sprinklers.
Fire station locations and requirements are different than when we formed in 1942. These capital facilities also are too expensive to fund through our operating levies. CKFR is considering asking voters to approve a bond that would fund facility improvements to resolve these issues. (A full list of station areas and improvements can be found here.)
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 fire district compared to what they paid in 2019. (Based on the average home value of $350,000 for our community.) This is because an excess levy is expiring and we will have paid off an old bond for apparatus before the new bond would take effect in 2021.