Call volumes continue to climb for Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One
Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One’s emergency medical service (EMS) calls climbed by 8% in 2021 (4,578 to 4,945) and emergency calls overall increased 3% (6,136 to 6,316), it reported Thursday in a press release. The fire district, which provides fire and life safety services to 53,000 people over 54 square miles, says it is making improvements to service the growing demand, and will likely seek a continuation of a levy lid lift and bond request to buoy the effort.
Emergency personnel are funded out of the agency’s operating levies, which are capped at $1.50 for fire suppression and $0.50 for EMS per $1,000 of assessed property value. EMS accounts for 78% of all emergency calls. The lid lift that maintains EMS funding will expire at the end of the year. The department anticipates it will ask the community to renew the lift at the same rate in a measure likely to be on the November general election ballot.
The agency is also trying to address aging facilities. Fire commissioners approved a capital facilities plan in December that includes a long project list that the district realizes can’t all be accomplished at once. Priority projects include building a training facility, replacing one station and renovating two to four others, depending on the cost. Capital projects are too expensive to fund out of operating levies, so the district is discussing possibly placing a bond request on the August primary election ballot.
“These projects will improve the health and safety of our community and its firefighters,” said Fire Chief Dennis Doan, adding that the plan has been needed for a long time.
With January being Firefighter Cancer Awareness Month and cancer known to be a leading cause of firefighter deaths, GHFMO points out that some of its stations lack appropriate decontamination areas to remove soot, hydrocarbons and smoke from firefighting gear. There also is a need for space to decontaminate medical equipment after EMS calls.
“I feel strongly about providing a healthy and safe working environment for the women and men who put their lives on the line every day for our community,” said Doan. “I hope our community feels the same and sees this as a top priority for facility improvements.”