Fire district 3 plans for the future

Island County Fire District 3 staff and board members are planning for the future.

Chief Dan Stout and the district’s three commissioners have begun a series of meetings to plan for the next five years and beyond.

“We want to develop a road map for the district’s future development,” Stout said.

District administrators and commissioners met in January and will meet again this month and next at the Saratoga Inn in Langley for the day-long retreats.

The district just completed a property purchase, across the street from the Island County Fairgrounds, for a new Langley station. The district is currently requesting bids for the project.

But another new station is on the minds of the commissioners and Stout.

On the table for discussion will be a new administration and training facility.

Right now the district owns 20 acres on Thompson Road that was planned as the site of a new central facility.

“We are looking at other options now,” Stout said.

“The district does need a central administration facility and training area for new firefighters. We are considering several other locations,” he said.

Stout and the administrative staff is headquartered at the Freeland station on Cameron Road, which was opened in July 2002.

Despite the look ahead, the district is not now considering hiring firefighters.

“Right now our volunteer system is working well,” Stout said.

The district is increasing in population and, consequently, the numbers of calls are on the rise, too.

“But our volunteers are handling the call load,” Stout said.

The district is staffed primarily by volunteers, except for part-time paid firefighters that are on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Two are on duty at all times.

“We have 85 to 90 volunteers and five high school volunteers. We need some more volunteers, especially in Langley and at the Saratoga and Maxwelton stations,” Stout said.

The district pays for the training and volunteers are paid a small stipend for each call they respond to. Firefighters and EMTs are required to complete 150 hours of training. Firefighters can then become first responders with another 70 hours of training.

The decision to go with the small paid crew was made to increase response time to emergencies, especially during the day when many of the volunteers are working.

In 2005, the fire district received 1,671 fire and medical calls, including hazardous material response and high angle rescue calls. Most of those — 1,236 — were medical calls.

In 2004, the district responded to 1,525 total calls, and in 2003, 857 calls.

Fire District 3 includes 57 miles of shoreline, and the fire department’s six stations cover 66 square miles of South Whidbey from Freeland to Clinton, including Langley, Bayview and Possession Point.

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