East Pierce Fire & Rescue received good news this month as voters approved its two levy lid lift propositions in the Aug. 1 primary, which will allow the department to hire nine new firefighters for a fifth medic unit.
The department was also awarded a grant this month to hire an additional nine firefighters.
East Pierce Fire Chief Bud Backer called it a historical moment for the department.
“This is a huge step for us,” Backer said. “You’re going from a few years ago, with the economy and people staring layoffs in the face to now we’re going to add 18 new people.”
This is a huge step for us. You’re gonna go from a few years ago, with the economy and people staring layoffs in the face to now we’re going to add 18 new people.
Bud Backer, East Pierce Fire and Rescue chief
The additional staff members help East Pierce Fire lower response times to calls, which are continuing to increase in frequency as the East Pierce area grows in population.
“We’re 5.3 percent above last year (at the end of June),” Backer said.
In addition to lowering response times, East Pierce Fire can rely less on neighboring departments from Puyallup, Orting and Buckley.
Pierce County Councilman Dan Roach, who serves the East Pierce County area, said that the approval of the levy lid lifts by voters will help both the fire department and the people it serves.
“The firefighters did a good job getting the word out about the needs that they had,” Roach said. “It’s good to see we're going to make that investment in our communities.”
With a 22-percent turnout, voters approved Proposition One by 53 percent and Proposition Two by 58 percent.
The first proposition will lift the Fire Protection Levy Lid back to the previously approved $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value. The second proposition maintains the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) at the current $0.50 per $1,000 assessed value.
For voters, this means about an $8 monthly increase on property taxes for a property value of $300,000, or about a $14 monthly increase for a property value of $500,000 in 2018.
$1,699,898 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant
East Pierce Fire was also awarded the Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) this month with a value of $1,699,898.
“That grant is specifically for increasing your resources to responding to fires and rescues,” Backer said.
The grant offsets the cost of an additional nine firefighters over the period of 18 months, turning crews of two firefighters on each engine into crews of three.
“All of this is about increasing our service level to the public and raising the bar for public safety,” Backer said.