CKFR, Bremerton Fire talk of merger

Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue has had periodic discussions with Bremerton Fire Department about a possible merger for a few years now, but recently there’s been talk of bringing in a consulting group to determine if a merging would be mutually beneficial.

“It would be at least September before we would start a study,” said CKFR chief Ken Burdette. “We think we can be more efficient and provide better service by coming together. On the surface it makes sen se to do this, but there’s a fear factor ... anytime there’s change people are resistant.”

The recent discussion at CKFR has been, “Is this something we should or shouldn’t do?” Burdette said. He is hoping that an extensive study will help answer that question.

“Realistically it won’t be until after the first of the year before we know if it makes sense,” he said.

The next step is to find funding for the study. There has been discussion of the two departments splitting the costs of the approximately $50,000 study.

There are plans to bring in a consultant from Emergency Services Consulting inc. (ESCi), a consulting service to public safety agencies throughout the United States and Canada.

“The way the economy is going and with all the tax initiatives this (merger) would work better,” said BFD chief Al Duke. “It’s just a long process to get there. People would see more response and get more service.”

He added that the new fire authority that was recently passed “helps districts and cities get together.”

Throughout the years there have been numerous mergers in Kitsap County. About 25 years ago there were a number of small fire departments in the county and now there are six, according to Burdette.

“There have been a number of mergers that have been positive,” he said. “Bremerton has been growing significantly. It’s exciting to watch the change in downtown Bremerton.”

BFD has three fire stations and covers an area of 20 square miles. It is the only public, full-time paid department in the county. CKFR has 12 fire stations and covers about 115 square miles. It has both career and volunteer firefighters.

“I think (the merger) is doable, I think it’s coming,” Duke said. “I think it will happen, I just don’t know when.”

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