Throughout the last several years, the North Mason Regional Fire Authority has held discussions and sought input from our public on how the Authority can work best to meet the challenges of a rapidly growing community. In response to that growth, we have implemented new programs, such as our opioid response program and we are seeking to add new programs, including a community-based paramedicine program. The opioid response program allows us to use best practices to address our communities relatively new, yet a devastating opioid epidemic. It will enable us to go to beyond the basics of emergency response in pushing back on the problem. The community paramedicine program would allow us to appropriately and efficiently handle non-life-threatening 911 calls thereby reducing costly emergency room visits for our citizens. We have recently collaborated with Telecare, an agency that provides behavioral health crisis response and we are continually engaging new technology to augment our emergency response systems.
One of the ongoing challenges that the Authority is addressing through capital and strategic planning is the challenge related to its aging capital facilities. The Fire Authority maintains ten fire stations, which are strategically located to protect nearly 136 miles of its response area. Seven of these fire stations are volunteer supported, with no paid staff. The other three fire stations (Belfair, Tahuya and Collins Lake) have paid staff that responds from them. Our oldest fire station (Tahuya) was built in 1965 while our newest fire station (Tiger Lake) was established in 2003.
The Fire Authority has begun updating its fire station facilities in Tahuya using existing Authority funding. In 2016, the old Tahuya Store was removed to make way for a new fire engine bay. This bay is currently undergoing contractor selection and will be built in the spring of 2019. The existing Tahuya Fire Station will be upgraded and remodeled to provide both work and training space for our firefighters and volunteer Community Response Team (CRT) members.
The second oldest facility in the Fire Authority is its headquarters fire station in Belfair on the Old Belfair Highway. This station houses the Authority’s administration and officers, and it serves as the base for emergency responders that respond to emergency calls in all areas of the Fire Authority. The Fire Authority’s current headquarters fire station was built nearly 50 years ago in 1971. At that time, the Authority (known then as Mason County Fire District No. 2) covered 36 square miles, responded to less than 200 calls per year, and had no overnight responders or office staff in the building. The primary role of the fire station in 1971 was to house emergency vehicles and to provide a gathering space for community events such as BINGO.
Today, the Fire Authority’s coverage area spans 136 miles as a result of two Fire District consolidation processes. The Fire Authority responded to nearly 2,600 emergencies in 2018, with emergency responders coming from our headquarters station for almost all of those requests. The Fire Authority has as many as ten emergency responders (volunteer and career) who call the fire station home on any given evening. During the day, the Fire Authority will have as many as 15 staff members in the fire station. The station serves as a business office, training center, North Mason emergency operations center, patient emergency care and treatment center, and housing quarters for our emergency response personnel. We have worked extremely hard over the past 50 years to maximize the utilization of the existing station, but the community’s growth has well exceeded the building’s limitations. The station has difficulty supporting current services and it cannot support any additional programs or personnel at this time, including the mentioned community paramedicine program and other grant-funded programs.
Guided by the Fire Authority’s Strategic Plan and a detailed capital facility report, the Fire Authority has been working on an exciting community proposal to build a new headquarters fire station to serve all North Mason citizens. We have secured an option to purchase 2.5 acres of land located next door, (to the north of) to the existing fire station. This site would serve as the location for a new headquarters fire station that would serve the communities emergency needs for the next 50 years. Also, we have been working on a collaborative partnership which would involve repurposing the existing fire station. The Fire Authority is proposing to lease its current fire station (which has a lot of useful life left) to Mason County, to likely serve as a north base for the Mason County Sheriff’s Office and the Department of Emergency Management. The proposal would create a North Mason emergency center, further strengthening our critical public safety and emergency management partnerships. Also, the County may elect to provide additional County services, now only available in Shelton, from the existing Belfair fire station site. The building of a new fire station in Belfair would require the support of voter-approved funding.
The Fire Authority is currently undergoing a feasibility process to see if this is a proposal that should move forward. As part of that feasibility process, the Fire Authority is seeking community opinion and feedback on the project. The Fire Authority will be presenting its proposal to the public on the dates and locations listed below. If you have any questions, I would love to hear from you as well. Don’t hesitate to give me a call. The Fire Authority’s facilities report that provides information on our existing Fire Stations is available via the following link: About Us – Fire Stations.
Community Presentation and Feedback Dates:
- Wednesday, January 9th at 6:00 pm at the North Mason Timberland Library
- Wednesday, January 16th at 6:00 pm at the Tahuya Fire Station (14880 NE North Shore Rd, Tahuya)
- Wednesday, January 23rd at 6:00 pm at the North Mason Timberland Library
Beau Bakken, Fire Chief