Fire District preparing for busy summer

by Richard Uhlhorn

At last Wednesday’s May 12, Fire Commission meeting, a number of issues were discussed. The meetings are being held in hybrid in-person status, but the District’s audio on Zoom is difficult at best. I called Chief Mark Donnell to go over my sketchy notes and following is an edited version of the meeting.

Billing for Marine 71 rescue operations:

Fire District 7 commissioner Phil Moller is concerned about budget creep on Marine 71. The Search and Rescue boat has been put on the water at little cost to the district but Moller is concerned about the costs of running the boat and how it might effect the budget.

Chief Mark Donnell explained that the plan for the boat is to have it on the lake on major holidays if the District has the staffing. He hopes that Marine 71 can operate on the lake on a regular basis. Assistant Chief Brandon Asher said, “”We are here to save lives.”

Since any on-water rescue operation by Marine 71 is expensive, the commission discussed how to alleviate those expenses. While the District is still working on its SOP (Standard Operating Procedure), everyone concerned agreed the District would charge a rate based on its Contract rate with the Forest Service for Marine 71 use.

Asher stated that there is an expectation that Marine 71 is on the lake. Commissioner Karyl Oules said she didn’t see how the district could afford to be a towing service on the lake. Donnell answered that $200 per call seemed reasonable to help the district recover its expenses.

Moller stated that there is currently no boat rescue operation on the Lake. “Shawn Raines tried, but there was not enough business to make it viable,” said Moller.

Marine 71 will be operating on the lake during the Memorial Day weekend.

Levy Lid Lift measure to the Voters:

The District will be asking voting residents within the district to approve a Levy Lid Life to approximately $1.10 per thousand dollars of assessed value from its current rate of $.85/1000 that has been in place for the last 15 years.

Commissioner Russ Jones said, “We are limited on revenue that we collect. We can only increase by one percent per year and our expenses increase by at least 10 percent,” said Jones. “We know we are growing.”

In the meantime, the District will be conducting a campaign to educate the voters to the needs of the District over the next 10 years. “It is a pretty well thought out plan,” stated Jones.

The District will now begin a campaign to educate its voters to the necessity of raising its levy amount to maintain the current level of service.

April Statistics:

Chief Donnell reported that the Fire District responded to 87 calls in April of which six were fires, 61 EMS calls, two service calls, 15 good intent calls and three false alarm and false calls. “April had the highest number of calls since 2010,” said Donnell.

The Emergency calls included 12 Advanced Life transports, 25 Basic Live service transports and 26 non-transport calls.

A commercial alarm sounded at Marcella’s Restaurant and the Fire crews arrived to find a fire in the exhaust fan created when the staff was cleaning the grill. “The fire alarm triggered but the sprinkler system didn’t,” said Donnell. the crew put the fire out quickly with no real damage.

Burning Season ending:

Fire season has begun. Let’s keep it safe this year.

The annual burning season is coming to an end at the end of the month. The District encourages people to burn safely. Wind events a created an early fire season for Chelan Fire and Rescue. They have responded to burns that have escaped boundaries to become brush fires. “These people were doing the right thing,” said Donnell. The fires were quickly controlled, but 2021 is expected to be much drier and hotter than even 2020 and that has fire agencies concerned.

City of Chelan-Fire Department MOU:

“We finally got everyone together,” said Donnell. The District and City came to an agreement in principle added Donnell. The District is not able to collect on property taxes in the City, so an agreement between the two entities has been sought after for a number of years.

To offset the inability to collect taxes, the two entities will offset that inability by drafting a Memorandum of Understanding that states, “You do this and we will do that” contract.

Memorial Day:

Chelan Fire and Rescue will be working with its partners in the Sheriff’s Department and others in the District to make sure it is a safe holiday for everyone concerned. “It will be a busy summer,” said Donnell.

The Commission meetings are held on every third Wednesday of the month at 5 p.m. Residents are encouraged to attend via Zoom. The link is posted on its website under Agendas and Meetings.

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