The Lynnwood City Council and the Snohomish County Fire District 1 Board of Commissioners have adopted resolutions to form a planning committee to develop a Regional Fire Authority Plan to be presented to area voters next year.
A Regional Fire Authority (RFA) is a special purpose district created by a vote of the people to consolidate and regionalize fire and emergency services. State law provides the framework for cities, towns and fire districts to consider forming an RFA as a way to gain service efficiencies through consolidation while retaining local control. This process has been used to successfully establish RFAs throughout the country and locally in Kent, South King County, North Snohomish County, Auburn (Valley RFA), and most recently in Renton.
The Regional Fire Authority Planning Committee will consist of three Lynnwood Elected Officials: Councilmember Ian Cotton, Councilmember George Hurst, and Mayor Nicola Smith; and three Fire District 1 Commissioners: Jim Kenny, Jim McGaughey and Bob Meador. The committee plans to set a meeting date for later this month to begin working on a plan to take to voters to establish a Regional Fire Authority encompassing the City of Lynnwood and Fire District 1. The plan will include proposed governance, financing, operations and service levels.
“We look forward to working with Lynnwood to come up with a regional fire service plan to take the voters that will enhance emergency services for all residents of south Snohomish County,” said McGaughey, chair of the Fire District 1 Board of Commissioners.
Regionalization of fire service in South Snohomish County is not a new idea with discussions dating back to 1972. In April 2015, Fire District 1 requested a meeting with Lynnwood city leaders to gauge the level of once again exploring the opportunities. In July, the city and the fire district entered into a blended management agreement combining the administrative staff of the Lynnwood Fire Department and Fire District 1 with a two-year time frame to give the city and district an opportunity to explore regional fire service models.
“With the blended management agreement, we’ve already begun taking steps to increase efficiencies and reduce redundancies between our two agencies,” said Lynnwood Mayor Nicola Smith. “We look forward to continuing this work through the Planning Committee in order to provide our Lynnwood and South Snohomish County residents more efficient and sustainable emergency services.”
The Lynnwood Fire Department operates two fire stations with 56 employees to serve more than 36,000 residents within the city limits. Fire District 1 operates 12 fire stations with 241 employees to serve nearly 200,000 residents in unincorporated communities as well as the cities of Brier, Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace. These partner cities have service contracts with Fire District 1 that would transfer to an RFA.
“These cities are valued, regional partners in our fire service and we will keep them informed every step of the way. The RFA plan will be written to allow any of these cities to join the RFA at a later date if they choose to do so,” McGauhey said.
All meetings of the RFA Planning Committee will be open to the public. A website is being developed to keep the public informed during this process.
Julie Moore, Manager of Communications & Public Affairs, City of Lynnwood
Leslie Hynes, Public Information Officer, Fire District 1