Puyallup’s Central Pierce Fire and Rescue, District 6, is the only fire district on the midterm ballot whose previously voter-approved levy was rejected in the 2018 elections. The district is losing an anticipated $2.2 million in funding as a result.
Part of that funding was earmarked for a new Low-Acuity Emergency Response pilot program, which was intended to address the rising number of low-acuity emergency calls that are responded to in Fire District 6.
Low-acuity calls are those considered to be medically non-urgent. In part due to rapid population growth in the Puyallup area – particularly of senior assisted-living facilities and medical offices – low-acuity calls are on the rise.
Central Pierce responded to approximately 30,000 calls last year. Roughly 300 of those were considered low-acuity.
According to Captain Darrin Shaw, Central Pierce’s community and government relations officer, the influx of these types of calls are increasing the current average response time to six or seven minutes. The ideal response time is closer to four minutes.
Shaw said it can feel like the longest five or six minutes of someone’s life when they are awaitingan emergency response. The life-altering calls are the ones to which District 6 wants to be more ready to respond to.
He pointed out that the levy funding was going to be used to purchase two new basic life support vehicles, as well as to hire four new firefighters to man them.
The vehicles and firefighters would have been used strictly for low-acuity calls, allowing both fire engines and more experienced emergency personnel to be dispatched to critical incidents.
With the rejection from voters on Proposition 1, which would have allowed what is called a lid lift on the current levy, the new low-acuity response program is on hold until at least 2020, when a new ballot measure can be introduced.
East Pierce Fire and Rescue and Fire District 17 voters each approved their district’s lid lifts. The last time a proposed levy failed to pass in Central Pierce was in 2004 – nearly 15 years ago.
Shaw isn’t sure why voters chose not to support this years’ lid lift, which would have kept the approved rate of $1 per $1,000 of a taxpayer’s assessed home value commensurate with inflated prices.
Currently, District 6 only receives about 89 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value.
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