Fire district looks at charging property owners for false fire alarms

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by Richard Uhlhorn

Chelan Fire & Rescue is considering charging home owners, resort owners and other properties for multiple false fire alarms that are responded to. Fire Chief Mark Donnell explained that most municipalities have False Alarm Ordinances. “The first response is free,” said Donnell. The charge would be assessed for the second false alarm. “We get called to Chelan Resort Suites one to two times a month. Their alarms are really sensitive”

The fine proposal would be for $100 which would be used to fix the problem. “False alarms tie up our resources,” said Donnell. The ordinance, if approved, would have to be adopted by the City of Chelan.

The District and EMS are down to 50 calls which according to Donnell is true nationally. “The biggest decrease is in EMS calls. It is slower than normal,” said Donnell. “We will see a larger impact on July 4.”

The Fire District is working with the City of Chelan on a mutual fire services plan. Councilman Ray Dobbs is the liaison between the Fire Department and the City. Donnell also said they have had meetings with Hospital CEO George Rohrich regarding combining the fire service with the EMS.

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Fire Chief Mark Donnell

Donnell also reported to the commission that there are 637 tax exempt parcels within the Fire District. This includes state, federal and local government owned properties along with religious organizations and undeveloped land. According to Donnell the district is losing an estimated $147,000 a year for protection services to these tax exempt properties.

“We are going to have a conversation with the private entities,” said Donnell. “Schools are the only one exemption. We get paid by student count,” said Donnell. “$147,000 is a significant chunk of change we are missing out on every year.” Donnell stated that all of these properties should have an interlocal agreement in place. If not, and a fire occurs, they will be billed.

Chief Donnell reported that over the years the District has had one of the five engines out of service during the entire fire season. “That is totally unacceptable,” Donnell stated. “We are at a critical juncture with fire apparatus.”

The District is looking at replacing some of the aging equipment. “In the past we have replaced old equipment with old equipment,” said Donnell. “We are not looking to buy new, but looking at purchasing newer equipment.” Donnell is also looking for equipment more suited to the District.

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Board Chairman Phil Moller

“We have to see what we can do with the equipment we have,” said chairman Phil Moller. “I don’t see us tightening our belts. Are we moving equipment around to make sure we have protection,” he asked?

Donnell replied that he appreciated what Moller was saying and stated that equipment has been moved around to make sure all areas are protected. “We have just enough equipment,” said Donnell. The solution is to start looking at equipment replacement.

Donnell said the District can find usable equipment at a cost of approximately $135,000. The other option is the Department of Natural Resources surplus equipment in October. Chelan Fire and Rescue has had numerous engine/electronic problems with its Ford F550s and they remain problematic. “We had one cardiac arrest and the guy died when the Ford went into Limp Mode,” said Donnell. The Ford was in the shop for almost a year and Ford mechanics couldn’t find the problem. “I can’t, with good faith, put firefighters in 71 and have it go into Limp Mode,” said Donnell. He wanted board approval to move forward, but Moller said he would like to wait until after the July meeting and Long Range Planning is completed.

 

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