Life Support is committed to eliminate unnecessary death and suffering for the citizens, visitors, and travelers of rural Upper Kittitas County by securing state-of-the art emergency and medical services.
Life Support overcomes converging regional challenges, by creating innovative and sustainable solutions, forging strategic collaborations and raising critical funds.
Life Support’s vision is to champion a Regional Fire Authority (RFA). State law provides the framework for cities, towns and fire districts to consider forming an RFA as a way to gain service efficiencies through consolidation while retaining local control regional fire protection. The legislature noted that the ability to respond to emergency situations by many of Washington state’s fire and protection jurisdictions had not kept up with the state’s needs and that efficiencies could be gained by regional fire protection service delivery.
Fire District 7 is leading the way and was recently awarded a SAFER grant to hire 9 full time firefighters evolving into a combined force of career firefighters and volunteers establishing a new standard. District 7 is the largest and most complex district responding to the largest portion of the I-90 corridor in upper Kittitas County and also responding to the recreation areas within the fire district which can consist of rope rescue, winter rescue, etc. Additionally, the district covers the Suncadia Resort which can have over a 1000 guests at any time at the main lodge as well as including other rental properties. Service level demands outpace neighboring districts and municipalities. With response levels approaching over 800 per year, volunteers alone can no longer provide the needed level of service without support from full time career firefighters. Burnout is very common in overworked all volunteer agencies.
We have a complex system in Kittitas County when it comes to Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Currently, each municipality has their own fire department which has volunteer EMTs and firefighters. For example the Cle Elum, Roslyn, and South Cle Elum fire departments are each separate entities and are all 100% volunteer based.
There are also Volunteer Fire Districts, such as Fire Districts 1, 3, 6 & 7 which serve rural areas of the county that are not covered by a municipal department (outside of city limits). These districts are also volunteer based.
In addition, we have a separate transport paramedic service (Medic One) dedicated to the Upper County. They are not fire based. Their primary job is to transport all patients in the Upper County and provide pre-hospital care. When called on, they cover Thorp to Snoqualmie Pass and everything in between, including the back country.
Fire District 7 serves the largest response area, has 4 aid cars (3 are transport units) and is back up transport for the Medic One Unit. There are often days when they cover multiple calls, sometimes all at once.
Consolidating Upper County Fire and EMS Districts would reduce the duplication of equipment and training as well as centralize operations. Consolidation would improve things immensely by allowing more career staff to be hired while also reducing response time to all communities and jurisdictions. This method has proven its worth time and again state wide. Unfortunately, it will be awhile before that goal is achieved in the Upper County.
Life Support stands with Fire District 7 in their efforts in creating this RFA planning for a future of consistent dependable and professional emergency medical and fire agency, combined with dedicated volunteers. A new Upper County Fire/EMS Department with a new name can begin a new chapter in a departments history, not a loss of its past.