Two Grays Harbor fire districts look to combine

Grays Harbor Fire District #16 and Grays Harbor Fire District #7 have announced they are looking to combine departments and are asking for public approval.

In a notice to voters of Grays Harbor Fire District #16, the district states that “After many years of struggling to recruit and retain volunteers to staff” services, the board of commissioners have decided to merge with the neighboring district.

Currently, Grays Harbor Fire District #7 serves the areas of Copalis Beach, Ocean City, and North Bay. This coverage will expand to cover the Copalis Crossing area covered by District #16.

The notice also states that “Personnel shortages and the increasing number of unfunded state and federal mandates” have caused a number of rural fire districts to merge. 

At this time, FD#16 has 5 firefighters that all work outside the district and has no medical responders within their boundaries. FD#7 currently covers EMS calls within the district and both districts have had mutual aid agreements for years. 

The commissioners say that the two districts have trained, responded, and worked together to benefit the residents of both districts.

They say in their release that by merging the districts there will be no interruption in emergency services and combining equipment will offset costs and combine access to grants already in place.

What will this merger cost residents?

2019 Levy Rates Fire EMS
Fire District No. 16 $0.88/1000 $0.47/1000
Fire District No. 7 $1.01/1000 $0.50/1000
Levy Rates calculated as amount per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Rates in the above chart reflect the tax rates per district and are subject to change upon merger approval.

The commissioners state that without the merger, residents in the Copalis Crossing area would see fire insurance rates increase drastically due to not being able to meet minimum staffing requirements as defined by the Washington State Rating Bureau.

“You, the residents of Fire District No. 16, are why we volunteer. Your health and your safety are why we are here, and it is our duty to provide you with the very best care possible when you need it most.”

 A Merger requires approval from 60% approval of voters within Fire District #16, and the commissioners say that their first choice for being able to answer questions would have been to hold a public meeting and taking a petition door-to-door, although COVID-19 response has prohibited those options. 

Residents are asked to fill out a petition sent to each voter and return it before April 30th for approval. They say that the hope is to complete the merger process by petition prior to August 1st to avoid having it on the November ballot.

If the measure went to the ballot, the fire district would incur ballot costs.

Questions, concerns, and comments regarding the merger can be messaged to the Fire District #16 Facebook Page or by contacting Fire Commissioner Larry Butler by email, [email protected], or by phone at 360-589-1184