North Highline Fire District: Seattle logistics, and more

By Deanie Schwarz
Reporting for White Center Now

The North Highline Fire District Board met Friday morning.

Board members and the new Chief, Steve Marstrom, who one board member commented was “here to drain a swamp,” largely discussed how to steer their ship in those swampy waters while holding course toward an uncertain harbor.

A major task for Chief Marstrom, as suggested in previous meetings where job scope was defined, will be to negotiate the transfer of assets and consolidation of services with as-yet-to-be-determined or confirmed entities. But details of day-to-day operations and priorities established by the Chief and his Battalion Chiefs (the most senior one now acts in lieu of a budget-deleted assistant chief) are still inquired about by the Board and are expected, so the new chief will continue providing answers.

Board member Wayne Alishokis noted that he and Chief Marstrom had attended the most recent White Center Chamber meeting to introduce the Chief to the North Highline community. Their introduction meetings also extended across the city-county line to a preliminary meeting with Seattle Fire Department’s (SFD) Chief Hepburn and Mayor’s Office representative Kenny Pittman. The Chief has scheduled a second meeting with SFD to specifically discuss the financial parameters of any potential future contractual consolidation with the city and the Seattle Fire Department. It was Chief Marstrom’s impression that the city of Seattle would not be interested in any agreement where it would need to supplement funds for NHFD #11. Their next meeting with Seattle is set for September 27th; there’s still no final decision on whether an annexation vote will be held in November 2011, but that’s the goal Seattle had been working toward.

There was also discussion regarding the transfer of assets with District #2 negotiations and a potential delay in the process. The issue has, according to the Chief, at least a $50,000 operating difference for the FD. But a district lawyer says an ongoing discussion with accountants may affect details of the negotiations.

Back to the Seattle issue – the board was particularly interested in learning about whether auto-dispatch requests through Valley Comm would be initiated by the city, and how to get such an auto-response of ladder backup integrated into standard operating procedure. The Chief said he would contact Chief Hepburn and inquire, but did not believe that SFD would agree to auto-dispatch ladders. An extended discussion ensued between the Board, the Chief and Battalion Chief Paul Fray regarding how the “Run Cards” are structured throughout the Fire District. The order of available engines and ladders is programmed throughout a number of districts and city’s fire stations. Seattle’s placement is “15 stations deep”, according to BC Fray. Tukwila, Renton, then a dozen or so other stations are run down for availability before SFD. The South side of the district and the southwest side of the district do not have equal access to responding equipment. Commercial callouts on the south side do have an auto-dispatch for ladders, according to Fray. But unless a residential call is a “confirmed” structural fire, then a ladder is not sent. Chief Marstrom had not realized the full service was not treated the same and asked that he been given the opportunity to educate himself on the situation, to which the Board agreed.

Seattle has always offered assistance on requests from NHFD for Ladder #13. Even though it cannot always send the actual Ladder #13, according to Marstrom, SFD will send available engines. The re-routing of the requests for a ladder does not, according to Marstrom, add additional response time, even though requests go to the Deputy Chief in Seattle who then determines the engines to send out to North Highline on a call by call basis.

New business brought up by a citizen attending the meeting revealed that a new application for a liquor license and nightclub license was made on Wednesday for the street address of what is now Club Evo. The applicants’ names differed from the owner listed under Club Evo. The applicant names of the new enterprise submitted were Rapport Leisure, Inc; Salcedo-Galvan, Rocio del Car.


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