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Bremerton firefighters sold on SKFR, but not on a merger
By an overwhelming majority, Bremerton Firefighters chose South Kitsap Fire and Rescue as the district they would prefer to merge with first if plans to create a Regional Fire Authority move forward.
According to results released by the BFD’s union No. 437 last week, members voted 4 to 1 for SKFR over Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue, with forty choosing SKFR and 10 choosing CKFR.
“It is pretty encouraging that BFD wants to merge with us,” SKFR Chief Wayne Senter told the fire district’s board of commissioners at its Jan. 28 meeting. “They would at least like to try and make it work with us first.”
While the preference for SKFR was clear, the union members were split down the middle on whether BFD should merge at all, however — 27 votes for and 27 votes against.
Senter said he was not surprised at those results, given that so few specifics about how exactly the departments will merge have been hammered out.
“That’s pretty normal,” Senter said. “It’s hard for people to get behind something when there aren’t a lot of details.”
Regardless, Senter said the vote is just advisory, as the ultimate decision will be made by the Bremerton City Council, likely in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, Senter said he expected to be providing much more information and answering many more questions before the decision is made.
“There is a lot of road left in front of us,” Senter said, explaining that even if BFD ultimately chooses SKFR, there are many more hurdles to clear before any merger will happen, including passage of a ballot measure.
And even if the decision is made soon, Senter said it was unlikely the fire merger proposal would be forged in time to go before voters this November.
“We would like to have enough time to answer all questions and not make people feel rushed,” he said, and the board agreed that the parties involved should take the time they need to create the best proposal as possible.
Also at the Jan. 28 meeting:
• Deputy Chief Steve Wright updated the board on the projects SKFR is completing, including the remodel of Station 9 in Manchester.
“The inside of Station 9 has been stripped-out, cleaned-up, and we passed our plumbing inspection,” Wright said. “We’ve had no major problems, and we’re on-schedule for opening May 1.” He said training of the new firefighters for the station is on-schedule, as well.
SKFR’s new 100-foot ladder truck, or Quint, is ready to join the fleet, and will be based at Station 31 on Tremont Street as L-31.