The Bellingham Fire Department has begun providing fire protection services and emergency medical services (EMS) throughout Whatcom County Fire District 8, starting July 1. As part of an interlocal agreement between the two agencies, eight career firefighters, formerly with District 8, transferred employment to the City of Bellingham and became Bellingham Firefighters. District 8 will continue its volunteer firefighter program to cooperatively staff District 8's two fire stations, which serve Marrietta and Gooseberry Point.
This agreement expands on previous agreements between the agencies that allowed for the sharing of resources and administrative personnel. This latest step will help District 8 to provide more reliable staffing at their stations and will provide greater depth of resources to both the City and District 8 during emergencies.
“Accomplishing this milestone, the contract for service, has been a long time in the making,” said Fire Chief Bill Newbold. “We have operated under a contract for administrative services since February 2013, always with an eye towards full functional consolidation. This new contract continues in that direction.”
Bellingham Assistant Fire Chief Bill Hewett, formerly with WCFD8 prior to the administrative contract, commented “the district and city have a long history of a positive working relationship, and it's exciting to see this much movement towards consolidation. It's been inevitable for both organizations.”
Fire chiefs and labor leaders of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 106 worked together to define the terms of transferring the eight employees from the district to the city, addressing the blending of seniority, application of benefits, and career opportunities for all members.
“We are honored to welcome our eight brothers and sister firefighters into the Bellingham Fire Department” said Robert Glorioso, president of IAFF Local 106.
District 8 will remain as its own fire district with continued governance by its five-member board of commissioners. The district will continue to own their facilities and apparatus while Bellingham Fire will assume responsibility for staffing and operating them on a daily basis. Staffing for the two district stations will come from a mix of Bellingham's full-time firefighting staff and District 8's volunteer firefighter program.
The new combined organization remains committed to providing a high level of service to the communities we serve and to living up to our mission of “Helping People Every Day”.