Tulalip Bay Fire District is in initial discussions with Everett Fire Department and Fire District 4 about a potential Regional Fire Authority.
A Regional Fire Authority (RFA) is a government organization that would combine the jurisdiction, governance and taxing methods of the three agencies.
Discussions got started when Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin reached out to local fire agencies about interest in forming an RFA.
“Our committee received it and decided they would like to discuss the potential RFA,” said David Sherman, fire chair commissioner on the Tulalip Bay Fire District board of commissioners and a full-time firefighter/EMT with the South Snohomish County Fire and Rescue RFA.
Everett officials have begun working with Tulalip Bay Fire District officials and Snohomish County Fire District 4 officials about the potential merger.
In January the Everett City Council voted to form a committee to officially begin planning.
Snohomish County Fire District 4 covers the town of Snohomish and surrounding areas.
Sherman said the Tulalip Bay Fire District commissioners have recently looked at the benefits and drawbacks of an RFA.
“Our board would like multiple options for the District 15 taxpayers,” he said.
The talks going forward are meant to see if the RFA can work for the Tulalip Bay Fire District customers, he said.
“This gives us all a chance to figure out if we can put something together between the three agencies,” he said.
The biggest benefit for the district would be access to the resources and scale of the Everett Fire Department.
“We’re a smaller district and this would give us a little more bandwidth,” said Sherman. “You would have the experience of a larger department to help us."
For the budget, a lot of duplicate resources could be eliminated as well, saving the taxpayer money.
Administration such as the fire chief and human resources department could be scaled back, he said.
Savings could be found in equipment and supplies as well.
“You don’t have to have two ladder trucks,” said Sherman.
Some RFAs are formed primarily because of concerns of financial stability, said Sherman, but the district is not currently in financial trouble.
“We’re not doing this because we have a financial problem,” he said, however if they can improve the efficiency of the budget it is something they want to consider.
He said the Tulalip Bay Fire District's goal is to ultimately improve the service for “the end user, the person who is calling 911.”
The drawbacks of an RFA include being subsumed under a larger entity, he said.
“The downfall can be governance. You lose some of that local control,” said Sherman.
The Tulalip Bay Fire District would want the Tulalip Tribes to have a continued say in how the local fire services are run, he said.
“We’re partnered with the Tulalip Tribes. We want our partners to stay at the table,” said Sherman. “We work really well with them and have for years."
Many local fire departments are moving toward the RFA model to gain efficiencies of scale for their fire services.
The Marysville Fire District became part of an RFA after voter approval in April 2019. The Arlington Fire Department will be annexed into the North County Fire and EMS RFA this summer after voter approval the merger this February.
Sherman said the Tulalip Bay board of commissioners is talking with those local agencies to see how the process has been going.
Discussion with Everett and Snohomish County Fire District 4 are scheduled to take about a year. If the three organizations wanted to move forward, the RFA formation would still have to be approved by a vote of the public.