East County Fire and Rescue is your emergency service provider.
East County Fire and Rescue provides fire and life safety services serving 10,500 people over 60 square miles in southeast Clark County. We are a combination full-time, part-time and volunteer district responding to an average of 1,100 calls a year on both sides of the Washougal River. ECFR operates under a balanced budget, is debt free for the first time in its history, and has passed all its financial and accountability audits by the state.
We want our community to understand how emergency services are funded.
Daily emergency services are funded by a fire levy capped at $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Over time, the fire levy rate falls as property values rise to limit a fire district to roughly the same amount of revenue per year plus a 1% increase allowed by law. For example, voters approved a fire levy of $1.50 in 2019 and it has fallen to $1.07. At times, we ask our community for a “lid lift” to fund increasing costs and maintain emergency service levels.
We require additional emergency personnel to respond to calls.
Our fire district experiences a high turnover of emergency personnel. Turnover is significant for part-time emergency personnel. In 2023, it was 100%, and we have been unable to consistently fill these positions as they leave for agencies that offer full-time employment. This means full-time firefighters must work significant overtime, which costs taxpayers more and has physical and mental impacts, resulting in staffing shortages. Volunteer firefighter turnover is also significant as they manage work and family commitments.
We consistently staff Station 91 (NE 267th Avenue) as it has higher call volumes, but we must close Station 94 (SE 352nd Avenue) on the other side of the river when we have insufficient staffing. This causes delays in response times, as does relying on mutual aid to respond from a neighboring agency. This staffing pattern is not sustainable and can jeopardize the outcome of emergency calls. ECFR proposes hiring up to four additional full-time emergency personnel to ensure both stations are staffed full-time.
Reliable apparatus is also important to provide an adequate emergency response.
ECFR diligently maintains emergency apparatus to extend their usable lives. However, almost half of our fire engines and water tenders have reached the end of service lives and will require replacement. Only one of the district’s three fire engines passed its annual performance test in 2023. None of our water tenders, which are used to transport water to fires, passed inspection. The engines and water tenders that did not pass required repair and will need ongoing maintenance to remain in service. We must purchase replacements and prefer to pay cash instead of financing these purchases, saving taxpayers money in interest payments. We must also replace firefighter equipment, such as protective clothing and emergency radios, on a mandated regular basis.
Revenue is not keeping up with the demand for emergency service.
ECFR’s budget projections show that without additional revenue the fire district will have a negative cash flow in 2024. The board of fire commissioners is considering asking the voters for a lid lift sometime in 2024. This lid lift would fund up to four additional full-time personnel to staff both stations full-time and save money towards purchasing two engines and water tenders by 2032. Please note that property value increases do not equal the revenue increases we receive. For example, if your property value increases by 25%, we do not receive that additional amount in taxes. We are limited to a 1% revenue increase per year.