Request a presentation: Chief Yengoyan welcomes the opportunity to provide a 15-to-30-minute update to local groups about emergency services, the fire district and the lid lift being considered, as well as answer any questions. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-387-1512 to request a presentation.Click here for our public event calendar to see when and where Chief Yengoyan is speaking next.
What we do
We provide fire and life safety services to 17,000 people over 46 square miles. We rely on full-time, part-time, and volunteer emergency personnel who have responded to an average of 2,300 calls per year in the last five years – of which 66 percent were for emergency medical service (EMS).
Our emergency personnel are highly trained in the following areas:
- Fire suppression and prevention
- Water and technical rescue
- Hazardous material response
- Vehicle accidents and extrication
- Fire and life safety education
We operate under a balanced budget and have passed all our financial and accountability audits by the state.
How we are funded
We receive zero funding from Island County government. We are a separate taxing district funded by two voter-approved property tax levies.
Our EMS levy funds a portion of our EMS personnel and medical equipment costs. The EMS levy is capped at $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
Most of our funding comes from our fire levy. This levy pays for daily operations including our EMS program. The fire levy also pays for capital projects such as equipment replacement or fire station renovations. The fire levy is capped at $1.50 per $1,000.
In 2017 voters approved a fire levy rate of $1.35. Since that time, the rate has dropped to $0.83.
Why did the levy rate drop?
Each year, we are only allowed to collect a set amount of revenue. State law limits us to that amount plus one percent more per year. Even if property values double, we can only collect one percent more. This means that the levy rate falls as property values rise to limit our budget to the same amount per year plus that one percent increase.
This is called “levy erosion” and impacts our ability to provide emergency services.
What is a levy lid lift?
From time to time, we must ask voters to reset our fire levy. This is known as a levy lid lift, and it helps us keep up with higher call volumes and costs to provide service. Voters approved a fire levy rate of $1.35 in 2017. Since then, the rate has dropped to $0.83 while call volumes have increased by 28 percent and overlapping calls are happening 20 percent of the time – that’s when two or more emergencies come in at the same time.
EMS accounts for 66 percent of all emergency calls
On average, we respond to 2,300 calls per year – of which 66 percent are for medical emergencies. We have only one paramedic per shift to provide Advanced Life Support (ALS). ALS is the highest level of emergency care that can be provided outside a hospital. Paramedics can:
- Start intravenous lines
- Administer medication
- Provide advanced airway management to help patients breathe
- Perform other lifesaving care for trauma, heart attack, stroke and critical infections
Lid lift will reduce response times and improve service
The Board of Fire Commissioners approved a resolution to place a fire levy lid lift on the November 7, 2023, general election ballot. The measure would ask voters to approve an increase of $0.42 per $1,000 of assessed property value. The lid lift would raise the fire levy rate to $1.25 per $1,000, which is less than the $1.35 approved in 2017.
We need adequate staffing levels to meet the emergency needs of our community. The nearest hospital is more than 60 miles away round trip. Transporting a patient can take an ambulance and its emergency personnel out of service for as long as five hours. If two transports happen at the same time and another call comes in, we must rely on mutual aid from agencies located in Stanwood or north Snohomish County, which take longer to reach the island.
The $0.42 lid lift would:
- Fund up to six additional emergency personnel
- Put into service another medic unit staffed by a second paramedic
- Renovate the Mabana fire station to allow for 24-hour staffing
What will this cost me?*
The owner of a home with an assessed value of $500,000 would pay an additional $210 per year or $17.50 per month.
Fire Chief Levon Yengoyan welcomes your questions at email@example.com or 360-387-1512.
* Homeowners who are 61 years or older and others who meet income and eligibility requirements may qualify for a property tax exemption. Contact the Island County Assessor at 360-679-7303 or online at www.islandcountywa.gov/269/Exemptions to see if you qualify.