Levy would help SKFR deal with growth

Voters will decide on a levy on the General Election ballot Nov. 8 for South Kitsap Fire and Rescue to deal with growth.

If approved the funding will be used to hire additional firefighters over the next five years and reduce response time of fire and ambulance calls, SKFR officials said.

Growth in South Kitsap requires fire and rescue to beef up its staff, SKFR chief Jeff Faucett said.

“As you drive around our community nobody can say that you don’t see the growth. You see plats of land being developed whether it’s housing treks, new home constructions or new apartments. We are on a trajectory to have more and more growth here, and we have to be able to provide that service. The only way we can do that is by asking the voters to support that,” Faucett said.

In the last 10 years, fire and rescue has experienced a nearly 48 percent increase in call volume. In 2021, SKFR calls went up 10 percent, and so far this year the number is on its way to increasing another 10 percent, the fire chief said. “We are getting about 1.3 calls every hour, which means we have two or three units moving all the time,” he said.

“What is starting to happen, and this is common in every fire agency, not just South Kitsap — the more demand we have on our service, the longer response times are because you are waiting for a unit to come from somewhere else,” he added.

There were two examples in recent weeks that highlight how fire and rescue staff is being spread too thin due to growth. In both instances, SKFR crews had originally been called to building fires when other emergencies arose that required fire engines to come all the way from Bremerton and an ambulance from Silverdale, Faucett said.

“That is happening more and more frequently,” the chief said. “By having more units in service, we will have enough people to handle second and third calls that come in.”

Passage of the 2022 levy would allow SKFR to add seven firefighters and a paramedic to each shift over the next five years. Approval will provide the South Kitsap region with another staffed fire engine and medic unit 24 hours a day.

If approved, the ballot measure would cost property owners $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The owner of a $300,000 home would annually pay $450 a year. The previous levy passed in 2017 is now at $1.21, meaning passage of this levy would only be an increase of 29 cents per $1,000.

Prior levies

SKFR has a high success rate of passing levies. The last time a fire levy failed was in the 1990’s.

Faucett attributes SKFR’s success to the agency being transparent. The chief said he regularly goes out in the community to answer questions about their operations. Fire and rescue also utilizes a citizens advisory group to help the agency form its budgets.

SKFR deals with a variety of emergencies — from fire calls to medical responses for cardiac arrests and severe trauma incidents. SKFR also deals with rescues, such as when people get stuck on cliffs or underground, the chief said.

SKFR operates out of 12 stations and serves 80,000 residents over 117 square mile area. The district is staffed by 90 firefighters, including 21 paramedics and 35 community volunteers. This year, SKFR is expected to respond to 13,000 calls, Faucett said.