East Pierce fire moves ahead with merger

By Judy Halone-The Courier-Herald

A merger between the city of Sumner, Fire District 1 and East Pierce Fire and Rescue took one step closer to making it onto the spring election ballot after the Sumner City Council approved an ordinance for fire annexation at its Sept. 17 meeting.

East Pierce Fire and Rescue presently operates fire and emergency medical services under contracted services for the city and District 1, located south of Sumner.

The early stages of the merger occurred after the retirement of Sumner Fire Chief Steve Stringfellow.

“Rather than replace that position with an individual, they chose to contract us with leadership for administration services,” East Pierce Chief Dan Packer said. “That included medical training and oversight. We've provided that for two years; it's a 10-year contract with an automatic rollover.”

During that time, Packer said, a citizen's advisory committee formed. The city council and EPFR board of fire commissioners entered into a new contract Jan. 1.

”That was complete in terms of all we do - not just administrative services, but all fire, emergency medical services and the hiring of firefighters,” Packer said. “It was a very persuasive agreement.”

Packer, who has served with the district for 13 years, said he is pleased with the idea of the merger moving forward.

“I believe this is a really valuable idea,” he said. “It's a more efficient form of government.”

The merger is now in the pre-election stage.

“One of the key parts and elements was to continue consideration of the final step with a vote of the people,” Packer said. “We've put most of the pieces into place. Now it goes through the process of the (Pierce County) auditor) seeing it.”

Dave Wakefield, assistant chief of training and planning, said the population within the East Pierce Fire and Rescue boundaries is presently 62,600 and is estimated to jump to 75,000 if voters approve the merger. The district encompasses 128 square miles and will grow to a 141 square mile radius following voter approval.

Judy Halone can be reached at

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