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West Sound Fire & Rescue set to disband
After two years of serious talks, Central Kitsap Fire & Rescue, Bremerton Fire Department and South Kitsap Fire & Rescue have doused the West Sound Fire & Rescue flame.
"This is a direction we're all going to go," CKFR Chief Ken Burdette said. "We weren't going to move forward with three departments."
All three fire agencies recently drafted and signed letters stating they are withdrawing from WSFR. SKFR fire commissioners approved the decision at their meeting Sept. 10 "to cooperatively put in the 30-day notice" to leave the regional fire authority planning committee. BFD and CKFR also signed similar letters.
"The three fire chiefs were directed by the planning committee to meet with attorney Ken Bagwell and try to come up with a consensus on what the new direction will be," SKFR Chief Wayne Senter said. "We don't think all three agencies coming together is doable at this time."
Burdette said BFD first suggested all three agencies pull out of WSFR together instead of waiting for one agency to make the first move.
Senter said WSFR may be no more, but the three agencies plan to discuss merging BFD into either SKFR or CKFR in the near future.
"Once we withdraw from the regional fire authority process, it allows us a little more freedom on how we may do a phased approach to a regional fire authority," Senter said.
Senter said official WSFR talks have been ongoing for two years, but county fire departments have been casually discussing a fire merger for the last 25 years.
"I see this as just really another phase of that regionalization," he said.
The work done by the WSFR planning and steering committees should not go to waste, according to Senter. It should be used in future discussions about merging BFD into CKFR or SKFR.
Burdette said he hopes WSFR will become a reality someday and CKFR, BFD and SKFR will continue to work toward that end result in phases.
"The common interests we had when we started are still there," Burdette said.