Agreement gives Island County a Fire Warden

"A new Fire Warden in Island County will likely allow the sheriff to get out of the burn ban business.According to Betty Kemp, director of the county's General Services Administration, the Fire Warden results from an interlocal agreement with Skagit County.Fred Wefer will be Island County's Fire Warden, the same title he holds in Skagit County. In return, Island County will pay a maximum of $19,000 for annual expenses, such as salary, benefits and auto, Kemp said. Wefer will technically be an employee of Skagit County.He just started yesterday, Kemp said Thursday. The Fire Warden will work in Kemp's department. The arrangement is similar to that with Emergency Services whose director, T.J. Harmon, reports to Kemp.Kemp said Wefer will spend some time every week on Whidbey Island where he can monitor conditions and inspect burn sites before issuing a permit. Previously, the Department of Natural Resources approved permits.Wefer will also work with local fire districts. He's a volunteer chief in a Whatcom County fire department, Kemp said.From now on it will likely by the Fire Warden's call to impose a burn ban during dry conditions. In recent years that has been one of the responsibilities of the Island County Sheriff.Jan Smith, spokesperson for the Sheriff's Office, said, We'll work in cooperation with the Fire Warden, but will no longer have responsibility for implementing burn bans. I'm pleased about this, Smith said.Both Smith and Kemp say details of the interlocal agreement remain to be worked out.There is already a new way for citizens to apply for a burning permit. From South Whidbey, call the Fire Warden at 321-5113, ext. 7343. Voice messages will activate the Fire Warden's pager.People with existing permits issued by the Department of Natural Resources can continue to do so until their expiration date. "

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