Comm upgrades getting close

The fire district is getting closer to building the web of agreements needed to solve the communications problems that have been plaguing the department.

At the April 8 regular board meeting, fire chief Christopher Carleton said work was moving quickly on establishing memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the Washington State Patrol to allow use of their communications facilities. “The positive news is they are writing the MOUs as we speak,” he said.

The district is planning to put a transmission dish on the Whidbey Telecom tower to connect with CBP communications facilities which is expected to dramatically improve radio and pager communications on the Point. “The contract with Whidbey is ready to go but I can’t unless the MOUs are in place,” Carleton said.

In other fire district news, Carleton said he was meeting with staff from Washington Surveying and Ratings Bureau (WSRB) to reevaluate the district’s fire rating. The WSRB “evaluates fire protection capabilities of cities and fire protection districts to determine community protection classes.” Those classes are used by insurance companies to set insurance rates for an area.

Carleton said the Point was currently rated six, with one being the worst and ten being the best. He was unsure how long ago the community’s fire rating was reviewed but fire commissioner Bill Meursing, the longest standing board member, said it had been 10, if not 15 years.

“We’ve definitely had some changes,” Carleton said. “We basically have 24/7 coverage now, we’ve added weekend duty and we have a new engine. My hope is we stay at a six or we could possibly drop to a five.”

Carleton also addressed some complaints from the public about the aesthetics of the burn ban sign at the border. “I have no intention of removing that sign,” he said. “Since we put up that sign our illegal burns have gone down by half. By having that sign right there at the border there’s no way people can say they didn’t know when the burn ban is on.”

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