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GIG HARBOR: Fire levy is appropriate

Letter by Douglas C. Allen, Gig Harbor on April 9, 2012 at 1:50 pm with 40 Comments »
April 9, 2012 2:11 pm

I have to disagree with the editorial stating that “there is nothing wrong with having to defend spending decisions to voters every few years” (TNT, 4-9). The editorial goes on to say that fire and emergency services are “vital.” Of course they are, and that’ s why having fire districts constantly going back for yet another levy is ludicrous.

If having a certain level of fire response and Medic One capability is good in one year, why does it makes sense to wonder if it should still be funded a couple of years later? If the loss of revenue that had previously been approved causes the closure of a neighborhood fire station resulting in greater response times and less paramedic availability, is that a good thing?

In other states that I am aware of, there is not a requirement for fire districts to forever renew their funding. Here, the process makes it difficult in the extreme for fire department managers to do long-term planning for their communities, when they never know from year to year what their budget will be. A reasonable, dependable budget makes sense.

I think the TNT got it wrong this time.

Leave a comment Comments → 40
  1. alindasue says:

    I agree. Essential services should be regularly budgeted items. Save the levies for the special projects like building a new community center or one time community investments like parking meters or red light cameras. Paying for essential emergency services out of the regular budget should already be a given.

  2. truthbusterguy says:

    Fact is the Tribue got it right on a local tax levy for the first time in history. This district has a reserve of 4.6 million (their own numbers). They could live on reserves for 10 years at the present rate of useage.

    They are no reasons at this time to run this levy. What should be asked is “what is the real reason to run this levy?” Not only the News Tribune but the Gateway (GH’s newspaper) and the local Chamber of Commerce did not endorse this levy because no real need was identified. Other than the firefighters union not one local organization has endorsed this levy. It’s time to say no and ask the District to tell the firefighters to take a haircut like we all have. Even the teachers in the Peninsula took a so-called pay cut. Firefighters have not taken a cut, days off or cuts in their lavish benifits. They work fewer days a week than teachers for Goodness sake!

    Their calls are down because of the local hospital. People are driving themselves to the hospital to avoid the $1000 bill. A permanent levy that increases the tax rate by almost 40% and once home values come back theDistrict will be awash in cash. NO WAY, NO HOW. Sorry, but we have to vote NO on this one.

    alindasue, please mind your own business on your side of the bridge and tell your union brothers to ready for a haircut.

  3. alindasue says:


    My statement was in regards to funding emergency services in general and not specific to the one levy, so the location of the levy (or whether the fire department is union or not) means nothing to me. I stand by my statement that essential emergency services should be funded by general budgets and special projects should be the things funded by levies.

    I don’t know how priorities got so turned around in our society.

  4. truthbusterguy says:


    Thanks for you clarification. I agree with you that general budgets should fund the priorties but when the legislature allows local fire districts to create a taxing district for special projects AND day to day operations, the legislature is then off the hook to fund them. The same is true with the schools and look where that has taken us. Just ask the state supreme court.

    It’s time for local districts to say NO to new taxes so the pressure goes back to the legislature where the funding should come from.

    I don’t agree with you often by I agree with your last sentence about how we have lost our way. I think you can blame your socialist friends and I can blame my GOP friends.


  5. GHTaxPayer says:

    Why do 2-3 heavy duty fire trucks respond to a 911 health emergency call? WHy not send ONE ambulance?
    Gig Harbor averages maybe 2 fires per year. How about a volunteer fire department?
    Seems like a lot of wasteful spending going on here.
    I’d rather the tax money be spent adding some more police and patrol cars.
    My neighborhood NEVER sees a police car patrolling through.

  6. itwasntmethistime says:

    alindasue — I think we all agree that emergency services should be funded without question. Where we don’t agree is to what degree. We all want them to respond quickly to heart attacks, car wrecks, and fires. The question is when is enough enough when it comes to highly specialized or technical services? We could literally divert every penny toward emergency services and there would still be something missed. Same thing with education. We could divert every penny toward our schools and there would still be kids who don’t become rocket scientists for one reason or another. So the issue isn’t whether we need to fund emergency services, it’s to what degree we can afford to. We don’t have enough money for everything to be optimal, so the decision becomes what degree is acceptable.

  7. BrianWilliams says:

    Like the TNT, many posters here are simply mis-informed. GHF funding comes from three primary sources; a permanent fire levy of $1.50/M, a 6 year EMS levy of $0.35/M and transport fees. ALL other Pierce County fire departments have a permanent levy of $1.50/M for Fire, a permanent levy of $0.50/M for EMS and have transport fees actually higher than GHF. ALL GHF is asking for is to change the EMS levy from $0.35/M to $0.50/M to help stabilize their revenues in the face of deep cuts that they have already absorbed. GHF has to pay the county auditor a fee to put a levy on the ballot – a fee that ranges from $50,000 to $100,000 for each ballot. A NO vote will require another ballot fee when the current EMS levy expires in a year or so. Vote NO if you think GHF should get out of the EMS business and your willing to drive yourself to the hospital while your having a heart attack! Otherwise do what every other community in Pierce County has done, and vote to approve the permanent EMS levy!

  8. itwasntmethistime says:

    Brian, you must be new to the comments section. If you weren’t you would know that none of us appreciates your scare-tactics crap. If the GH fire department budget decreases the entire department will not fold. The issue is that service may or may not be slower at times because there will be fewer fire fighters on duty. If a NO vote causes GHF to get out of the EMS business they won’t need to collect the current $0.35 per thousand, which will make a lot of people happy.

    Check back in later, as I’m sure the discussion will soon evolve to your paychecks and why guys like you who make roughly twice as much money as the people you help protect are always whining with your hand out for more.

  9. BrianWilliams says:

    itwasntmethistime, Your right of course, the community can choose to fund, underfund or NOT fund EMS services. That’s what the vote is all about. I think your wrong that a lot of people would be happier if the Gig Harbor community had no Advanced EMS services. What your missing is that EMS funds pay for Paramedics and Advanced Life Support – things your basic Firefighters cannot do. I don’t mean to sound scary (and I’m not a firefighter or paramedic), but for me this levy is all about the quality of life we’ve come to expect in Gig Harbor.

  10. itwasntmethistime says:

    Brian — Oh no, I know what EMS funds pay for.

    What I’m saying is that there are a lot of families struggling to make ends meet. No matter where we live or how much we earn we’re being nickle-and-dimed with a few harmless bucks at every turn. There is a straw that breaks a camels back and many are at or past that point right now. A firefighter’s wage is much higher than average so they don’t feel the few bucks here and there as much.

    It is all about quality of life, what we expect, and what we decide is acceptable. To some, paying $30 more per year to maintain fast ambulance service means a higher quality of life. To others, it means a lower quality because they no longer have that $30 in their budget. Maybe their kid can’t play t-ball at the Y or maybe they have to forgo their once-a-year family outing to a Rainiers game. Maybe they were going to buy a Discover Pass with the $30 and now they can’t.

    Taxes tend to run wild when not met with great resistance. If people let the fire department (in any city, not just GH) do whatever they wanted we would have a fully-staffed station every square mile. We’d have fast emergency service, but many of us would starve to death.

    Quality of life depends on your perspective.

  11. Flanagan says:

    Brian Williams…you’re making me crazy with the “your and you’re” thing :o) Oh…and by the way…I voted no!

  12. firemannotfirefighter says:

    GH Taxpayer,

    The reason why we send those types of rigs has to do with staffing and what people say on the phone when they call 9-1-1. I cannot tell you how many times I have arrived on scene to a hang-up Aid response, only to find out that the incident is actually much worse. If that is your argument for voting no, you are misguided. Their fire department is supplemented by volunteers already, and if you really want to live in an area where you are served by volly’s then you obviously haven’t had the pleasure of being served by volly’s. Response times go up and as a result so do deaths. Look it up. Plus, there is a SERIOUS volunteer retention problem across the state. I agree with the NO vote, but your questions have NOTHING to do with this levy. They are about the overall fire service.

    The reason why I voted NO, on this levy (and remember I am a professional fireman) is because of the spending habits of the Department. Their recent acquisition of a Technical Rescue Rig is nicer/larger than Tacoma’s or Seattle’s (I wasn’t aware that Gig Harbor had that much need for technical rescue). The age of their apparatus is one of the youngest in the region, meaning the money that will be collected by the levy won’t be to replace aging apparatus. Their fire stations are being renovated using current funds. Their firefighters just settled a contract with an initial 3% pay INCREASE and more on the way.

    The OTHER reason why I voted NO, is because of the way the County values my house. The County has an artificially HIGH valuation of my house, meaning I pay more in current taxes than I would if the valuation was correct. As a result, the the revenue collected by Gig Harbor Fire hasn’t gone down in direct proportion to the value of my house. I am paying tax on the part of my house that is underwater.

    Finally, Gig Harbor Fire is a fee based transporting agency. If they are in dire need for money, they can simply increase their fee for transporting to the ER.

    I am voting NO and the majority of firemen that live in Gig Harbor that I know will be voting NO as well. Simply put, they don’t need it!

  13. BrickTamland says:


    What agency do you work for? That way we can be sure that GH’s firefighters go out and campaign against levies for your agency using logic as asinine as yours. Your complaints are completely nonsensical and easily refuted.

    Yes, GH has a new rescue truck. Read their meeting minutes on the department’s website. They bought it used. It’s a former demonstrator. They previously had an ancient former beer delivery truck that had been converted to carry rescue equipment. There was a definite need, and so they rather frugally found a lower cost option than a lot of other agencies around here would use. It’s nowhere near as big as the truck Seattle uses — that’s just false.

    Pierce County’s process of doing assessed valuations has nothing to do with the fire district. Voting no on an EMS levy won’t change the way values are assessed. It’s sort of like saying that you disagree with the way the federal government spends money, so you’re going to vote no on GH’s EMS levy to send a message to the feds. It makes no sense. Again, please let us know what agency you work for, so GH residents can go campaign against your levies using the same kindergarten logic you do here.

    Transport fees won’t cover the cost of providing the service, which you as a professional firefighter should know. And if you don’t know that, you should educate yourself so you have a better understanding of how your own profession works.

    If these are the reasons why people are voting against GH’s EMS levy, I shudder for the area’s future.

  14. BrianWilliams says:

    itwasntmethistime, I agree it’s a matter of perspective. Let me offer a slightly different one. Here’s the fire tax rates of other fire departments around the county:
    Lakewood: $3.32/M
    UP: $3.11/M
    Parkland: $2.55/M
    Graham: $2.30/M
    Gig Harbor current: $1.85/M
    Gig Harbor without EMS: $1.50/M
    Gig Harbor if EMS Levy passes: $2.00/M
    Please say how you see their request as “run wild” taxing? It appears to me that GHF has been a good steward of the tax payers money and they deserve our vote!

  15. BrickTamland says:


    There you go, injecting facts into this debate. I wouldn’t expect your logical and truthful argument to carry any weight around here. Don’t you understand that facts and TNT commenters generally don’t mix?

  16. itwasntmethistime says:


    First, it’s apples and oranges what different districts need. For instance, all of West Pierce is concentrated suburbs while Tacoma has high rises and Gig Harbor has rural areas. Different districts have different needs so comparing what it costs to run one district against the other is useless.

    Second, those are rates per thousand, not raw dollar amounts. Gig Harbor doesn’t have huge ghetto areas of older, low-priced houses like Lakewood does.

    Third, GHF has not “run wild” because the voters haven’t allowed it to. The voters need to continue to be diligent or it will run wild.

    Fourth, according to firemannotfirefighter, GHF currently has everything it needs to provide good service. Relatively new equipment and the funds to provide raises in this era when most Americans are seeing their paychecks shrink.

  17. There will always be stories of the dire consequences of what will happen if some levy is not passed.Most of the arguments for the increase will not be backed with facts,only with conjecture,so for the most part, the informed taxpayers will vote against the levy request.I say let the people that feel more money needs to be taken from the overtaxed taxpayers,write a check and send it to the department that is so desperate for more funds!

  18. firemannotfirefighter says:


    If you say that the Rescue Truck that Gig Harbor Fire recently purchased, staffed AND equipped is smaller than Seattle’s, then I will take you word for it. I still stand by my assertion that the Gig Harbor Fire District doesn’t have enough technical rescue responses to even come CLOSE to justifying this purchase and expense. What is the run volume for your new rescue rig that justified your “DEAL” on it? 12 runs a year? IF that?

    Second, I am FULLY aware that Gig Harbor Fire has NOTHING to do with the valuation of homes in Pierce County. But since the Assessor doesn’t put forward levies to fund their operations, I will take a stand on the levies that are put forward by other entities. Sucks I know, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

    Next, this levy is PERMANENT!!!!

    I notice that you didn’t want to address the raises and the more to come issues?

    Look dude, I understand that you feel the levy should pass. And I sympathize with you. One of the departments that I have worked for was about the size of PCFD #5. I am very much well aware of how our profession operates and the cost of doing business. Knowing all that, is yet another reason why I am voting NO and why the number of firefighters I have talked to that live in this community will be voting NO.

    Will there be layoffs? NOPE. Will there be station Closures? Nope! Will there be a reduction in services? Nope! Are your stations unfit or dangerous? NOPE! What about your apparatus? NOPE! You current tax rate is fine for the service you offer.


    Lakewood, Parkland and UP are all agencies that cover a more urban area (as opposed to suburban) and have a more dense tax base. In your numbers, did you determine what their effective tax rate per $1,000 assessed is? Do ANY of these agencies have a PERMANENT tax levy? The rest of the facts might put those numbers into context.

  19. alindasue says:


    I’ve already stated that I feel operating expenses for essential emergency services should be part of a town’s regular budget and that levies should be used instead for special projects (i.e. building a new station). Aside from that, I’ve been pretty much sitting back and letting the locals argue about this specific levy.

    However, since you addressed me specifically, I will respond. You asked, “The question is when is enough enough when it comes to highly specialized or technical services?”

    I don’t think this is a matter of “highly specialized” or “technical” services. It is the job of the fire department medics to get to the person needing help within that critical first five minutes or so when quick action can often mean the difference between life and death. The EMTs or paramedics administer first aid to stabilize the patient long enough to transport him to the hospital. It is the hospital that has the “highly specialized” services.

    However the medic truck does need to be well stocked to cover a broad range of emergency situations, whether it be burns, bleeding, fractures, or a heart attack and the staff needs to be well trained to use the equipment the truck carries.

    You speak of costs and “quality of life” that would be lost if these services are funded stating that the $30 extra per year (your figure) would fund a family’s Discover pass or once a year visit to a baseball game. Given that property tax would be split into two payments, that $30 becomes $15 twice a year – which will buy you just ONE day at a state park with the family or ONE Tacoma Rainiers game ticket.

    When you cut down EMS services, it affects more than how much you pay in property taxes. It also affects things like your home insurance premiums. Your insurance rates are based on several factors including how your neighborhood is rated. Proximity to fire hydrants or response times of emergency services both affect that rating. You may save $30 per year by paying less for emergency services, but if it causes your insurance rates to go up, are you really saving any money?

    Hopefully, I have adequately addressed your comments to me. Of course, I am speaking in terms of emergency services in general. All I know of the specific Gig Harbor situation is what I’ve read in these comments – which I will now go back to just reading.

  20. firemannotfirefighter says:

    “When you cut down EMS services, it affects more than how much you pay in property taxes.”

    You are referring to the communities ISO rating and it has NOTHING to do with EMS services.

    The ISO rating is based on the Fire Department’s ability to respond to FIRES…


    This levy has NOTHING to do with the ISO rating of those that reside in Gig Harbor Fire and Rescue’s district. Your argument is not valid if you are trying to convince us that the ISO rating will decrease if this levy passes. Simply not true. I would however, now that you mention it, be curious as to what the ISO rating for Gig Harbor is.

    It is easy to lump Emergency Services into a huge pot, but the simple fact is that when it comes to Levies, we have to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. Police, Fire and EMS, while ALL considered Emergency Services are NOT related to ISO. ONLY fire suppression is considered for the Fire Department ISO rating.

    Finally, just because I am not supporting this levy, doesn’t mean for an instant that I am not supporting my local firefighters. Simply put, they haven’t made the case for the NEED. Again, because this applies a tax on my home which is artificially over valued (in part to keep services like this from decreasing even more) and because the Gig Harbor Fire Department is in (by all accounts) VERY good financial condition, I will not support this levy and have already voted against it.

  21. itwasntmethistime says:

    alindasue, I’m not talking about saving money. I’m talking about not paying MORE. People are resigned to paying what they have been, but a lot of people can’t pay MORE than they have been.

    It doesn’t matter how you slice up $30, into once a year or once a month. It still works out to $30. If you add a $30 expense to my budget I have to take $30 from somewhere to cover it. A good portion of many people’s economic woes is because all they cared about was payments instead of how much something was costing them. I know a lot of people who buy cars they really can’t afford because when the payment is stretched out 84 months who can resist upgrading?

    I agree, operating expenses for basic essentials should absolutely be covered. But, is a technical rescue rig that is only needed once a month at most worth it? Could the million dollars have a more positive effect on the entire community when spent in another way, rather than on the chance that it may or may not save one life over a whole year?

    There are hundreds of thousands of people in the Puget Sound area. If we spend all our money saving just a few it doesn’t leave anything for anybody else. What’s the right $ amount? I don’t know, but it needs to be considered, not just automatically spent.

  22. BrickTamland says:

    The level of mendacity is pretty impressive around here. Fireman, my sources say the GH rescue truck runs more like 10-12 or more calls a week, not a year. Regardless of how busy it is, it was and continues to be a smart purchase. Again, what department do you work for? I want to compare GH to your agency.

    Re: your position on levies and assessed value, thanks for explaining your position. It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, but I’m glad you were honest. Now let me ask you a question: you’re planning on voluntarily giving up your pension benefits, right? Since you’re so opposed to government spending and all. Are you going to put your money where your mouth is? After all, this makes just as much sense as what you’re doing, if not more.

    You’re actually wrong about closures, wrong about layoffs, but that’s not surprising, considering how wrong you’ve been about basically everything you’ve posted so far. Still, thanks for the conversation.

  23. itwasntmethistime says:

    Well, that explains Brick’s urgency. He doesn’t really care about the community as a whole, he’s worried about his job. I can understand and sympathize with him, but it still doesn’t change my opinion that we need to make decisions that provide the most benefit to the whole community instead of just a few individuals.

    I can imagine it would totally suck going from a job that pays $80K+ per year and has a compressed schedule that allows for several days off each week to a straight 8 to 6 position for $40K per year. It’s the same number of hours, but it sure is harder to do all the extra-curriculars that firefighters have the time and money to enjoy.

  24. BrianWilliams says:

    itwasntmethistime, Shame on you for making this come true: “I’m sure the discussion will soon evolve to your paychecks”. I thought you were above this kind of crap.

    Brick is right, GHF has confirmed that Rescue 58 is being used in place of Engine 58 for everything but FIRE calls. This “Technical Rescue” truck has all the tools (i.e. Jaws of Life) to mitigate car accidents and also serves the more complex Technical Rescue mission when needed. Huh, imagine that, a department with the vision to multi-purpose a “Rescue Truck”. That’s gotta be a first!

    firemannotfirefighter, for someone that claims to be a firefighter you seem to be out-of-touch with how fire departments are funded. All of the departments I mentioned have PERMENANT EMS LEVIES in the maximum amount allowed by law – except Gig Harbor Fire! Yes, Lakewood, UP, Parkland and Graham all have permanent EMS levies (and permanent fire levies too). The maximum of “Regular” permanent levies combined is $2.00. Anything over $2.00 is an additional “Excess” levy – and all the departments mentioned routinely ask the voters for Excess Levies to exceed the $2.00. I don’t think GHF has EVER asked for an Excess Levy. While I might agree that fire district taxing should consider density – the law is not written that way. The law only allows fire taxes to be based on assessed property values. A fire district like Key Peninsula has 130 square miles and UP has 8. But because of assessed values UP takes in a lot more money overall than Key Peninsula. So again your density argument holds no water. In fact, I think the law has it right and the demand for fire services is proportionate to the combined assessed values.

    I share a lot of the anti-tax sentiment posted here – but I don’t think GHF should be vilified because of the greedy acts of other fire departments. The numbers speak for themselves, and GHF has been a good steward of our tax dollars. Today I learned that they have reduced their staff by nearly 4% through attrition and employees forfeited or deferred contracted pay increases. Hard to imagine a union volunteering to forfeit a contract item isn’t it. I believe they are asking for this modest increase because they have run out of things to cut. I also believe without it they will be forced to close (or brownout) one or two stations. This will impact response times and the quality of life in Gig Harbor.

  25. BrickTamland says:


    I don’t work for GH, and I’m not a firefighter. I just think that people should be honest and factual when they make arguments. That’s not happening here.

  26. itwasntmethistime says:

    If we want to stick to honesty and facts we should throw out one of the very first comments that suggested if the levy failed GH would be completely out of the EMS business and everybody would have to drive themselves to the hospital.

  27. BrianWilliams says:


    Since I threw out the “scary” comment about driving to the hospital let me explain. The current NON-Permanent levy will expire in a year or so – reducing the total GHF tax to $1.50 per thousand (less than half of what UP and Lakewood collect). GHF will have no choice but to cut services, and since it’s the EMS levy that failed, GHF would have to assume the message from the voters is “we won’t fund EMS services”. With that mandate from the tax payers GHF would find ways to reduce or eliminate EMS services – that is after all what the EMS levy pays for. Put another way, without EMS funding fire departments are not required to provide EMS services – specifically EMS transport services. If the tax payers send the message that we will only fund “Fire services”, than that’s what GHF will do. When you call 911 with a medical problem you’ll be transferred to a private ambulance company for medical transport. Since there is hardly ever a private ambulance in Gig Harbor you might as well drive yourself to the hospital if you’re having a heart attack because you’re going to get there faster.

    I agree with Brick, if you comment on this issue please keep it honest and factual. This is a Gig Harbor issue and there is a lot at stake for those that live in Gig Harbor. Don’t let uninformed and misguided anti-tax sentiment destroy one of the best run EMS systems in the county. Please don’t paint all fire departments with the same brush. GHF has demonstrated that they have been good stewards with our tax dollars and deserve our support.

  28. firemannotfirefighter says:

    The agency I work for is the Agency I work for. It isn’t hard to figure out when you read my posts. As far as our Pension, I am VERY much in favor of numerous pension reforms.

    Look, I am NOT piling it on GHFD. I am responding to the inaccuracies of some of the commentators and explaining what has been discussed between myself and a NUMBER of GHFD members. What? Are you surprised to know that even among the firefighters they are not 100% on board with this?

    You claim your tech rescue rig is going on 10 to 12 runs per week. That would lead me to believe that you don’t have 10 to 12 technical rescues, but that (as another poster has said) you guys are supplementing the apparatus responses by having it respond on Engine or even Ladder responses. As far as needing it for all of those MASSIVE rollovers and using the amkus or jaws or whatever it is you guys use, it sounds to me like a ladder truck (How many of those do you have?).

    Brian a Multi-use Rescue Truck is commonly referred to as a Ladder Truck (except those on Ladders respond to fires as well). If you aren’t in the fire service I know this can be confusing, but here is how we break it down at public events.

    Engines: Have Water, Hoses and respond to most EMS runs
    Ladders: Have ladders, rescue tools (Jaws, ropes, harnesses etc) and are typically tasked with forcible entry, securing the rollover rigs and operations level technical rescues
    Technical Rescue Apparatus: Used for those operations that need a higher level of technical training such as Technician level Confined space, Rope Rescue, Trench, etc…. Technician level is a State certification.

    ALL APPARATUS carry basic first aid kits and Defibs. Having a Tech rescue Rig respond to Engine Assignments takes an engine out of service for responding (Number of personnel because I believe that they cross staff… Brick do they cross staff?). So in order for them to respond with E58, if they are our with R58, they have to return to the Station, and switch over. Now THAT could in fact affect the communities ISO rating!

    I am not opposed to government spending, I am opposed to artificially placing a higher value on property to squeeze the taxpayers for money. Hate it all you want, there are MANY of us that are tired of this crap.

    Oh, Brian, paychecks should be involved in the discussion. Settling for what is regarded as a pretty hefty pay raise at the same time asking citizens to pay more is relevant.

    Brick, I am being VERY honest with the arguments that I am putting forward. Just because you don’t agree with them, doesn’t mean that they aren’t true. And I do question whether you are or aren’t involved with the GHFD or the fire service (maybe not a firefighter or with GHFD but you aren’t being 100% honest here). Why do I say that? Because you are telling me what the run volume is, when the GHFD doesn’t make that information readily available to outside entities.

    Brain, your idea of the sky falling is just that it’s an idea. Simply put, GHFD could contract out with one of the private ambulance companies for all BLS transports (Not a first in the county or region). The BLS transporting companies will PAY GHFD for the ability to do this, it will allow the firefighters/medics to focus on ALS only responses AND it will reduce the amount of money needed from taxpayers. Since you are so fond of comparing UP, Lakewood, Parkland and Graham do they transport BLS or is that by a 3rd party? Oh and Lakewood and UP are 1 department now… West Pierce Fire and Rescue!

    Once again compare apples to apples!

  29. BrianWilliams says:


    My understanding is GHF will respond with R58 for non-fire calls and E58 for fire related calls. They use the same staff for both vehicles but they may split the staff between both vehicles when both are needed for a major incident. They don’t have a ladder truck but will ask Tacoma to send over a ladder truck when it’s needed. When I asked why they don’t have a ladder truck they say it’s because they are very expensive to operate for the few times a year it might be needed. So once again I think GHF is using our tax dollars wisely, and prioritizing how the money is spent for the greatest good. Why should they operate an expensive ladder truck, something you say would only be used 2-3 times a year when we need a community based EMS every day? You mentioned ISO, and I asked about that. Their rates recently improved from a 4 to a 3 (whatever that means). I wonder, what are the rates in your fire district? How do they compare? Do you honestly believe that one of the private ambulance companies would write GHF a check to operate there? Why would they? Do they write a check to your fire department? If so, for how much? It seems to me that there are no private ambulance companies in GHF because it is too small of a market to justify a presence. Sure the model you suggest might work for UP or Lakewood but unless they have enough volume to justify their overhead they’re not going to operate in Gig Harbor – certainly not out in the rural areas.

    You’re entitled to your opinion, but as a small business owner I don’t see how we can expect service equal to Lakewood for half the cost. Like your arguments, it just doesn’t add up. If we don’t fund EMS they sky won’t fall, but who will we turn for our EMS service when we need it?

  30. firemannotfirefighter says:


    First of all I believe that GHFD already has a ladder truck in it’s stables. This would again nullify the need for a rescue apparatus. Again, with the cross staffing of an Engine and a Rescue rig, you are essentially taking the Engine out of service while the members are on the rescue rig. This is unacceptable. Secondly, an engine should be responding to EMS runs, not the newest and one of the most expensive rigs in their fleet (The rescue rig). They are doing this to artificially raise the number of responses. There are MANY reasons why Engines are first out. Their ability to clear runs and respond to fire to get the wet stuff on the red stuff is paramount for saving lives and for reducing property damage. If the crew of E58 is on R58 and out on a response or in the community and has to return to properly staff and respond in the Engine, then that will SIGNIFICANTLY increase the likelihood of fire related damage and even deaths. A fire doubles in size every minute. Having to return to the barn and jump off the rescue, jump on the engine and respond will increase the fire MANY MANY MANY times over.

    Secondly, there are NUMEROUS private ambulance companies that work with agencies as small as or equivalent to the size of GHFD. My previous department is a good example. We contracted out with AMR. Part of the contract included fines for arriving after the agreed upon time on scene as well as co-locating some of their ambulances within the fire stations themselves. Rural Metro already has contracts in this area and adding them to cover GHFD for BLS transport would NOT be difficult. Again there are ALREADY private ambulance companies operating in the Peninsula area.

    And yes, I KNOW that multiple private ambulance companies are looking at Gig Harbor. With the addition of a Hospital and ER, this area makes the most sense for having a BLS only transport. Again, this would reduce the overall operating costs, allow GHFD to focus on Life Threatening emergencies, as well as increase the amount of money they bring in.

    You KEEP comparing GHFD with Lakewood and UP, but when I bring up that they may be contracting BLS transport, you say it’s not the same. If you want to compare GHFD with ANY other agency, then truly compare them. Don’t just cherry pick the areas that you think are relevant. This is an EMS levy that you are comparing to other departments in the area. You are using their taxes as a basis for part of your argument. If that is your argument then you have to look at the ENTIRE EMS system of those other areas as well. If, for example, West Pierce contracts with say Rural Metro to provide BLS transport care, and you want to compare the 2 entities, you HAVE to look at how West Pierce transports versus GHFD. As a small business owner do you compare your business with other businesses but leave out the number of employees?

    The contract for my department between the private company is available online. All public contracts are. Do some basic research and you too can find it. As far as my department’s ISO rating is, it is irrelevant. I have already told you that ISO ratings and EMS are not related; UNLESS the GHFD is using a technical rescue rig to respond to non-technical rescues and thereby taking an Engine out of Service because of staffing. If this is happening, then that WOULD affect the ISO rating. Once again, ISO is a rating based on the ability and number of Fire Engines to respond to a fire and the water supply to said fire engines. If the staffing is on a technical rescue rig, then the fire engine isn’t able to respond.

    I agree that GHFD is a good steward of our tax dollars. My bank is too. That doesn’t mean I want to pay more in fees!

  31. firemannotfirefighter,

    Wow, I have no clue where you are getting any of your infor about the district or how it operates. Aparently you make a habit of spreading lies, or making up your own facts. If you want to find out how the department actually operates why dont you stop in and ask. No one is getting a pay raise. The Rescue is operated as a first out rig, and is supplemented by the other engines if supression capabilities are needed. The rig would not return to the station if the crews were needed on another call. They would respond with the rig they are in. These are all answers that can be had by asking, and gathering facts. Didnt take long for me to do it. If he truely does work for a fire department why doesnt he just say who. Remember, before you write something as a fact, make sure its true and can be backed up. Thanks for wasting everyones time.

  32. BrianWilliams says:


    GHF does not have a ladder truck “in their stables”. Does that change how you feel about GHF having a multi-purpose rescue truck? Where should they put all the tools that are normally found on a ladder truck – if they don’t have a ladder truck? How about putting them on a rescue truck, which costs less to operate than a fire engine? And buy that rescue truck used for less than the cost of a fire engine! It’s a good thing you’re making a living as a firefighter. You would never survive in small business. GHF is making the kind of choices and changes a business needs to make in this economy. It’s unfortunate that you can’t support that or recognize the savings to the community. You wont say, but I suspect you’re a firefighter (perhaps on a ladder truck) for UP or Lakewood. I also suspect you have some issues with how your district is taxing the community and you’re transferring those issues onto GHF. On the other hand you believe that GHF should have a business model (and ladder trucks) like your fire district. What works for Lakewood may not be right for Gig Harbor.

    Know at the very least my YES vote will cancel your NO vote.

  33. BrickTamland says:

    Guys, it’s not worth continuing to post facts. They obviously don’t matter to many of those posting here. By telling the truth, and providing factual information, we’re just banging our heads against the wall.

    Like I said earlier, if most voters are as misinformed as many commenting on this thread, I shudder for our future.

  34. stevanmp says:

    Nail on the head.

  35. firemannotfirefighter says:


    Front page of the Gig Harbor Fire Department website. Scroll down to the pictures of the Stepping Stones preschool tour. So maybe you have a quint and are calling it an Engine, but that big aerial ladder on top of it would qualify it as a Ladder Apparatus (Think of WHY they call it a quint).


    I realize that you are NEW to this conversation, but I am not the one who originally postulated that the rescue Rig was cross staffed, I was responding to Brian Williams and PLEASE try to read my post I very specifically used the term “IF” the crew of E58 is out….

    I hope I don’t need to inform you what the word “IF” means?

    Oh and your COLA raise is still a raise. Yes I am VERY well aware that the cost of living went up and what the CPI is, but if your income is almost 4% greater under this new contract than it was your previous (without an increase in actual work hours) then that is a raise. Since the contract is a public document why don’t you post a link to it here. Show the public your current and previous contract and I will SHOW the raise using your own contract.

    Back to Brian, YOU are the one that keeps bringing up Lakewood and/or UP (Once again it’s West Pierce Fire and Rescue). YOU are the one that WANTS the SAME level of service as that jurisdiction and are using them as a comparable, WITHOUT using the entire system as a comparable. Look back. I NEVER brought up those jurisdictions, I only responded to those that had.

    I agree that Gig Harbor Fire has done an EXCELLENT job in their management of my money. I agree that the service they provide is good and I know a number of their members that are all hardworking firemen. I have no problem with them, but this Levy is the wrong time and should not be permanent! The WHOLE reason WHY the rescue rig even entered the conversation is because of the cost of the actual apparatus (You say they got a deal, what was the purchase price and the overall price to fully equip it? Wanna bet that all things considered you are looking at in excess of $500k?) coupled with the raise that the firefighters union is getting AND all of the stations being remodeled. Looking at the GRAND scheme of things, this is not the right answer and it is not the right time.

    You can vote yes all you want, the simple truth of the matter is that it will probably pass. But the idea that the issues I am raising here should have no bearing on the actual debate is ludicrous. You guys are the ones posting the comparisons (Which I respond too but don’t bring up), you guys are the ones posting INACCURATE falsehoods regarding the ISO rating (Debunked by me) and you are accusing me of not stating the facts. The Gig Harbor Fire website SHOWS an AERIAL APPARATUS WITH GIG HARBOR written all over it. Here is a Youtube link of Engine 51 (What is that Big thingy on the top of it?)


    By the way, the population that GHFD serves (Check their own website link above) is about 44,000. The population that West Pierce Serves is more than twice that (Just google the population of UP and Lakewood. The actual served population is much greater because those are city limit populations). Just because numbers do matter afterall.

    Vote NO, it isn’t needed at this time. BLS transports can be done by Private ambulances for a fee to Gig Harbor Fire AND it is a better use of public resources.

  36. BrianWilliams says:


    Old pictures. That vehicle was retired a few years ago after they found cracks in the ladder. They called it a “Squirt” and said it didn’t qualify as a ladder truck because the ladder was only 50 feet long fully extended. But don’t take my word for it, call them and ask!

    They bought the rescue truck for $300,000 and all of the equipment on it was transferred from their old beer truck and another vehicle. Both vehicles were high mileage and very old (from the 70’s and 80’s). Very little new equipment was purchased for the new (used) rescue truck.

    The station remodels were done under a federal grant. Here’s a link to the details:
    Some matching money was needed, but the grant paid for the lion’s share of the remodels.

    Not sure where you’re getting your facts, but when I ask GHF they tell me that NO ONE is getting any raises. Can you provide a link showing these raises? Is it something current or is it just an old link like your “ladder” pictures?

    That really leaves us with the true issue at hand. Should GHF continue to provide EMS services to the community, or, as you suggest, should the community rely on a private ambulance company for those services. I’ve been told (sorry, can’t verify it) that the rate GHF charges is about half the rate that private ambulances charge. I may have figured you wrong – do you work for AMR or Rural Metro? (hey JM, is that you???)

  37. Firemannotfirefighter,
    While I respect your decision as a taxpayer to vote in whichever direction you desire, your contemptuous lies and misinformed facts need to be addressed.

    First, the tele-squirt in the picture was retired over two years ago. It had reached the end of it’s service life and was in constant need of repair. That “Big thingy” on the top….represents your lack of knowledge of Gig Harbor’s current operations.

    Second, the current Union contract expired on December 31st, 2011, and the new one is in the process being negotiated. While I am not privy to the ongoing negotiations, I can assure you know one is asking for more money or COLA….and your lies of a 4% bump is disingenuous to inflate your position.

    Third, the “new” rescue replaces a vehicle that was dangerous to have on the road. The “new” rescue was used for two years by the McChord AFB FD before Gig Harbor was able to purchase it at a severely discounted rate. The purchase price was $300,000, and the department already had the equipment. Gig Harbor belongs to a co-op with four other agencies which provide technical rescue throughout Pierce County. The rescue is cross-staffed by crews at Station 58 and carries equipment and operates much like a truck. The administration found the best of both worlds to save the taxpayers….providing for the response for the county rescue team, and providing for our citizens at the same time.

    4) The station remodels were paid for by a $2.2 million Federal grant. Hard to argue that the Fire District is not showing fiduciary responsibility when it is seeking outside funding.

    5) Gig Harbor citizens deserve, and have come to expect, a level of care that Private ambulances lack. If your pushing for second rate care to save a few bucks, maybe you need to look for some quality housing in Tillicum. Oh, wait…it costs more there.

    Look buddy, like I said….I respect your decision to vote no. It is your right to determine the level of care you want this area to have. But as a brother firefighter it’s disgusts me that you come on here and spread lies based on your misinformation. Do some research other than the internet to get your facts.

  38. BrianWilliams says:

    Well said firegod, and thank you for your service (even though I hope I never need it!). Don’t let these knuckleheads discourage you. Anyone that actually studies the facts will quickly see that we’re getting A+ service for a bargain.

  39. BrickTamland says:


    I have a suggestion for you. Next time you’re considering posting, just hold off. Stop for 15 minutes, look around on the internet, or make some phone calls to verify what you’re about to say. That way you won’t continuously post things that are wrong. Seriously. It makes you look ridiculous.

  40. stevanmp says:

    Your whole discussion over the e58, r58 is wrong. The if makes no difference. I hope that I don’t need to explain that to you. Pick up a phone, actually talk to some ghfd people (which you haven’t done) get your facts straight. You are critisizing people for pushing views from other districts, but that’s what your doing and not gathering facts along the way. It’s real easy to make up stories and get people riled up. It actually takes a bit of effort to use facts. I can only hope you have better integrity in your work.

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