Study in favor of merging three Kitsap County fire departments

Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue, Bremerton Fire Department and South Kitsap Fire & Rescue are closer to potentially becoming one entity.

Emergency Services Consulting inc. (ESCi) presented a report to Bremerton City Council Wednesday that recommended the merging of the three fire departments.

Robert Merritt, project manager for ESCi, presented a brief overview of the 234-page feasibility study, giving his recommendation to fully integrate the three agencies. BFD, CKFR and SKFR regularly cooperate with one another and a full integration is the best option, according to Merritt.

“Kitsap County is literally light years ahead in Washington,” Merritt said. “There’s a lot of cooperative things already going on.”

The three agencies support hundreds of thousands of people and CKFR Chief Ken Burdette said full integration makes perfect sense.

“I believe it makes a lot of sense,” Burdette said. “It’s been talked about for a number of years in Kitsap County.”

CKFR originally formed after a series of mergers between fire departments and Burdette said merging BFD, CKFR and SKFR could be beneficial for the fire agencies and the community.

“Over time a lot of those have taken place and we are who we are today because of it,” Burdette said. “It’s worked in the past and it could work now.”

CKFR’s Station 45 and Bremerton Fire’s Station 3 cover neighboring areas. Burdette said full integration of the agencies will improve responses to assistance calls. “There are always places where we overlap for responses,” Burdette said. “It doesn’t make sense to have two fire stations that close together. The efficiencies we can gain are important.”

During his presentation, Merritt mentioned one challenge of full integration is that each fire agency has its own traditions and cultures, which could be lost when merged together.

“There are certainly some challenges,” Burdette said. “We have some slightly different cultures and different ways of doing things.”

Bremerton Fire Chief Al Duke told the city council that the fire agencies need about a month to “read and digest” the feasibility study before addressing specific questions and concerns.

“Everybody recognizes that we can do a lot more efficient operations,” Burdette said.

If full integration of the three fire agencies is not chosen, Merritt and ESCi recommended integrating some operational delivery services or finding opportunities for cooperative efforts.

“When the public calls for assistance they don’t care what the patch looks like on our shoulders,” Burdette said.

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