What we do
We provide fire and life safety services to 9,000 people over 50 square miles north of Mutiny Bay and south of Libbey Road. We rely on full-time, part-time, and volunteer emergency personnel who respond to an average of 1,715 calls per year – of which 60 percent are for emergency medical service (EMS).
Our firefighters/EMTs are highly trained to provide the following services:
• Fire suppression and prevention
• Technical rescue (rope, marine, structure collapse)
• Hazardous material spills
• Vehicle accidents and extrication
• Community CPR classes that will increase survival rates for heart attack and stroke patients
We operate under a balanced budget and have passed all financial and accountability audits by the state.
How we are funded
Our daily operations are funded by a fire levy capped at $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The maximum we have asked voters to approve is $1.35 per $1,000 back in 2012.
The fire levy or voter-approved bonds can also pay for capital projects, such as building fire stations or replacing fire engines and equipment.
Since 2012, the levy rate has dropped to $0.86 per $1,000.
Why did the levy rate drop?
Each year, we are allowed to collect a set amount of revenue. State law limits us to that amount plus one percent more per year. Even if property values double, we can only collect one percent more. This means that the levy rate falls as property values rise to limit our budget to the same amount per year plus that one percent increase.
This is called “levy compression” and impacts our ability to provide emergency services.
What is a fire levy lid lift?
From time to time, we must ask voters to restore our fire levy to a previously approved amount, known as a levy lid lift, to help us keep up with higher call volumes and costs to provide service.
Voters approved a fire levy rate of $1.35 per $1,000 in 2012. Since that time, the rate has dropped to $0.86 while call volumes have increased by 50 percent and overlapping calls are happening 28 percent of the time – that’s when two or more emergencies come in at the same time.
We rely on full-time, part-time, and volunteer personnel. But volunteer personnel are not always available to respond, resulting in unpredictable staffing levels. This leads to longer response times and can seriously affect survival rates.
EMS accounts for 60 percent of all emergency calls
We responded to 1,715 calls in 2022 – of which 60 percent were for medical emergencies. EMS calls require on average two to eight emergency responders, depending on the medical situation, to perform various lifesaving tasks:
• Perform CPR
• Stabilize patients and perform extrications when necessary
• Administer treatment or medication
• Manage traffic and/or crowds
• Support family members
• Transport patients to the hospital
CPR calls, for example, require at least seven responders to maintain oxygen flow to the patient, perform chest compressions, and administer medications. This is the standard and seconds matter. The survivability rate of a patient drops 10 percent every minute that goes by without help.
Levy lid lift will reduce response times and improve service
We are considering asking voters to approve a fire levy lid lift of $0.32 per $1,000 during the November 2023 general election. The lid lift would raise the fire levy rate to $1.18 per $1,000, which is less than the $1.35 approved in 2012.
The lid lift will fund four additional full-time firefighters to reduce response times and improve service districtwide. It will also pay for the completion of the fire station on Race Road to house firefighters to continue to provide a 24-hour response.
What will this cost me?
The average property owner of a $500,000 home would pay an additional $160 per year.
Fire Chief Jerry Helm welcomes your questions at [email protected] or 360-678-3602.
Central Whidbey Island Fire & Rescue facing challenges to service – January 26, 2023
Central Whidbey fire district may seek levy lid lift – February 14, 2023