Fire District 1 delivers annual report to Edmonds City Council

Fire District 1 Fire Chief Ed Widdis presents to the Edmonds City Council Tuesday.
Fire District 1 Fire Chief Ed Widdis presents to the Edmonds City Council Tuesday.

Under the City of Edmonds contract with Snohomish County Fire District 1, the fire district is required to provide an annual report on its performance, including how quickly it responds to fires and medical emergencies as well as its fire prevention and emergency preparedness training for Edmonds residents. The Fire District Board of Commissioners and Fire District Chief Ed Widdis did just that at the Tuesday, July 21, council meeting.

In addition to sharing statistics on the types of calls the fire district receives for fires and other emergencies, officials presented information on their community paramedic program — funded through the Verdant Health Commission — which works with at-risk patients who make multiple calls to 9-1-1; and their mobile heart monitoring equipment — also funded through Verdant — which transmits a patient’s electrocardiogram results from the field so physicians can treat heart attack victims faster when they arrive at the hospital.

Fire District 1 serves nearly 200,000 residents in unincorporated South Snohomish County, Brier, Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace. The fire district has been providing fire and emergency medical services to the City of Edmonds since 2010, and provides full-time staffing at 12 fire stations — including three in Edmonds — located across a 45-square-mile area.

Among the statistic presented at Tuesday’s meeting:

– Traumatic injury, with 1,845 cases, topped the list of 10 primary reasons for emergency medical services (EMS) calls throughout the Fire District 1 service area, and falls (1,002 cases) were the number-one injury response category. Chest pain/discomfort came in at number 8 of the top 10 responses, and Fire District 1 officials noted that they have a cardiac arrest  “save rate” of 71.4 percent, well above the national average of around 20 percent. Motorized vehicle collisions (406) were the number-two injury response, followed by physical assault (75), self-inflicted injury (70) and domestic violence (59).

In Edmonds, in the year 2014 Fire District 1 firefighters responded to a total of 4,718 incidents (down slightly from 4,804 in 2013). Of those, 82 percent of calls were for emergency medical services. A total of 4 percent of calls were false alarms, while just 2 percent were for fires.

– Fire District 1 places a high priority on training its employees for a variety of situations, and also focuses on regional training exercises with nearby fire departments. One such exercise during the past year, which also involved Edmonds police, was a simulation of an oil train explosion at the Edmonds ferry dock, with multiple fires and both railroad crossings at Dayton and Main Streets blocked to emergency crews. The exercise also included exploring alternative ways for fire and emergency crews to get across the tracks with trains blocking access. Officials note that there are options for individual responders to get across blocked rail crossings — such as going through trains — but there is no easy solution under such a scenario for moving a fire or ladder truck to the waterfront.

– The fire district in 2014 provided a variety of public education programs in Edmonds that included CPR and first aid classes, child car seat safety checks, smoke alarm checks and fire station tours and classroom visits.

The fire district also provided a summary of its response times to emergency calls in Edmonds, and how those compare to standards “all built around assembling enough firefighters and equipment in time to effectively mitigate your emergency.” They include:

– Performing better than the standard of 8 minutes for total response time, which measures the time from the 9-1-1 call is received at dispatch to arrival at the emergency scene. Fire District 1 responded in 7 minutes, 56 seconds to 90 percent of all calls.

– Performing better than the standard of 2 minutes, 45 seconds on total turnout time, which is measures the time from dispatch until firefighters leave the station in required protective gear. Fire District 1’s turnout time averaged 2 minutes, 36 seconds in 92.1 percent of calls.

– Performing better than the standard of 5 minutes, 15 seconds for medical aid calls requiring basic life support treatment (in 90.2 percent of calls, response time was 5 minutes, 13 seconds) and for arrival of advanced life support (paramedic) calls (response time was 6 minutes, 1 second,  beating the standard of 6:45 on 93.9 percent of advanced life support calls).

– The fire district did not meet standard for the first arriving fire engine on fire response, which is set at 6 minutes, 30 seconds for 90 percent of fire calls. Fire District 1 met that standard on 86.73 percent of calls, but officials note that the City of Edmonds has never met this standard, even when the service was provided by its own fire department. The average response time of the first arriving fire engine was 6 minutes, 51 seconds for 90 percent of calls, or 21 seconds below standard.

Councilmember Tom Mesaros asked what might help the fire district improve the response time issue, and fire officials pointed to the implementation of the New World Systems, a new countywide public safety dispatch and records management system. The launch, originally scheduled for June 9, was put on hold to allow additional time to complete system testing.

At the end of the presentation, Fire District 1 Board Chair Jim Kenney reminded the City Council that the fire district and city need to set a date to begin negotiations on amending the city’s current contract for fire services. Related to that, City Finance Director Scott James told the council later in the meeting that the city plans to spend $55,000 to hire a consultant with expertise in negotiating fire service contracts.

In late January, the City Council voted to cover a $1.6 million invoice from Fire District 1 for retroactive wage increases for the district’s firefighters and paramedics — and to advocate for changes in the original city-Fire District 1 agreement.

Kenney also noted that in an effort to improve communication between the two entities, Fire District 1 will be assigning a deputy chief “to regularly attend council meetings and provide liaison to the city.”

  1. Under the City of Edmonds contract with Snohomish County Fire District 1, “The District Fire Chief and the Mayor shall present a joint annual report to the Edmonds City Council prior to July 31.”

    1. From the Interlocal Agreement for Fire and Emergency Medical Services:

      8. OVERSIGHT and REPORTING
      8.1 Agreement Administrators. The District Fire Chief and the City Mayor
      and/or their designees, shall act as administrators of this Agreement for
      purposes of RCW 39.34.030. During the term of this Agreement, the District Fire
      Chief shall provide the Mayor with quarterly reports concerning the provision of
      services under this Agreement. The format and topics of the reports shall be
      agreed upon by the District Fire Chief and the Mayor. Additionally, two District
      Board Commissioner members and two City Council members, along with the
      District Fire Chief and the Mayor, shall meet at least once per calendar year, on
      or before April 1, for the purpose of communicating about issues related to this
      Agreement. The District Fire Chief and the Mayor shall present a joint annual
      report to the Edmonds City Council prior to July 31.

      The interlocal agreement clearly states that: The District Fire Chief and the Mayor SHALL present a joint annual report to the Edmonds City Council prior to July 31. I believe the first sentence of your article is incorrect. If I am wrong, please provide the related contract section. Thanks.

      Sorry for stressing this but I believe it to be very important. This is a big budget item and I think the interlocal agreement requires the Mayor to be actively involved in oversight, reporting and administration. For example, I believe the District Fire Chief and Mayor should have jointly presented a discussion of the upcoming Contract Payment Adjustment. An open and transparent discussion of such may help prevent surprises.

        1. So do you believe that what took place on July 21st was not related to the joint annual report the District Fire Chief and the Mayor SHALL present to the Edmonds City Council prior to July 31?

          I think you raise a good point as the items presented by the Fire District do appear consistent with Section 2 of the Interlocal Agreement.

          However, Section 2.5 doesn’t say that the Fire District will deliver an annual report to the Edmonds City Council. Section 8.1 is the Section that discusses an annual report being made to the City Council prior to July 31st.

          The proximity to the July 31st date also causes me to wonder.

          This shouldn’t be so difficult to understand.

          If I am wrong, I would think that the presentation of a joint annual report by Mayor Earling and Chief Widdis would be on tonight’s City Council Meeting agenda. I don’t see that but maybe they will add at the last moment.

        2. The interlocal agreement clearly states that: The District Fire Chief and the Mayor SHALL present a joint annual report to the Edmonds City Council prior to July 31.

          I just reviewed the July 28, 2015 City Council Meeting Minutes and can find nothing to indicate that this requirement was complied with.

          Has the interlocal agreement been violated?

        3. As a reminder, I researched the Interlocal Agreement only in reaction to the large, surprise FD1 bills from the past. I believe the Interlocal Agreement makes it very clear that the District Fire Chief and the City Mayor and/or their designees shall act as administrators of the Interlocal Agreement for purposes of RCW 39.34.030. As such, I think we should have had a much better understanding of what was going on and not been surprised by the large bills. Working together to prepare the JOINT annual report may have helped.

          I also believe that the joint administrators should have both been very aware of Section 4.2 of the Interlocal Agreement:

          4.2 Contract Payment Adjustment. The Contract Payment shall be adjusted each year no later than September 1.

  2. Per RCW 39.34.030, in the event that the Interlocal Agreement does not establish a separate legal entity to conduct the joint or cooperative undertaking, provision must be made for administering the joint or cooperative undertaking.

    Under the City’s Interlocal Agreement with Fire District 1, the District Fire Chief and the City Mayor and/or their designees shall act as administrators of the Interlocal Agreement for purposes of RCW 39.34.030.

    RCW 39.34.030 is State law.

    It is supposed to be a joint or cooperative undertaking.

    I find this very important and my research started last year when we were informed of the large retroactive pay increases.

    Is it reasonable to believe that the Mayor and/or his designees should have known more about these pay increases as joint administrators of the ILA?

    Also, I continue to believe that per the Interlocal Agreement, the last day FD1 could adjust Exhibit C and our Contract Payment for 2013 may have been September 1, 2013.

    The interlocal agreement does include section 4.2 and it is pretty clear:

    4.2 Contract Payment Adjustment. The Contract Payment shall be adjusted each year no later than September 1.

    Has the City made an open and transparent public announcement disclosing what the City’s stance on section 4.2 is?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.