Who will pay for fire watch at County Fair?

CK Fire & Rescue commissioners engaged in a slightly heated debate about how much is enough when it comes to fire protection at the Kitsap County Fair.

If no volunteer firefighters step up, it will cost the district $26,000 in overtime to staff the fair this year said Roy Lusk, CKFR’s assistant chief. He offered his findings at the board’s April 14 meeting.

“We found it difficult to find volunteers,“ Lusk told board members. Fire District 7 (SK) has opted not to provide staff to the fair and it is still up in the air whether Poulsbo will.

Last year 19 volunteers contributed between 12 and 74 hours each. It cost CKFR $430 ($1.50 an hour) for the volunteers. Career staffing cost the district $12,900 in overtime last year, Lusk said in an interview Thursday.

In the past few years, CKFR has provided a first aid booth, an engine with two firefighters, a bike team with an EMT and paramedic, advanced life support for the rodeo and a command officer.

Last year, 614.5 hours were worked by staff and volunteers. Volunteers contributed more than one third of those hours.

In years past, fire districts throughout the county — 12 (Chico), 7 (Port Orchard), 18 (Poulsbo), 1 (CK) and 15 (CK) would spend a day at the fair. But in 1999 districts 1 and 15 merged and this year Chico’s all-volunteer department also merged with CKFR.

Lusk said that created a diminishing workforce of volunteers.

“The department has taken on more and more responsibility at the fair because we wanted to, not because we had to,” Lusk said.

Although the money is currently budgeted, CKFR officials questioned if taking on all responsibilities is a good use of taxpayers’ money. They will discuss the issue in May.

“I think we need to look at where the monies are going,” commissioner Mick McKinley said.

From a fire protection standpoint, the fair is considered a city within a city. Last year about 88,000 people visited the fair.

The commissioners voiced concerns that the Fair should have money in its budget to shoulder some of the costs.

“Poor planning on the county’s part doesn’t constitute a crisis on our part,” commissioner John Wilkins, Jr. said. He and other commissioners wanted to compare fire coverage to the Kitsap County Fair with other fairs in the region.

Lauran Erickson, fair and special events coordinator, said they have never had to pay for fire protection services and at this point it’s too late to add in a $25,000 line item.

“We don’t have that kind of money,” she said.

Fair and CKFR officials continue to work out a plan.

Olympic Ambulance has agreed to provide services for the rodeo. Fair officials are also talking with the county’s Department of Emergency Management to possibly provide staffing for the first aid booth.

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