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Public comments needed for first-ever review of firefighting/EMT operation

By Kevin Hanson

The Courier-Herald

Should the local fire department shift its focus in the coming years?

Should more stations be built? Is the department in need of additional paid staff? And, if changes are made, how should they be funded?

Those are just some of the questions to be asked as Enumclaw Fire/District 28 begins a first-ever review process. The four-month exercise, said Chief Joe Kolisch, "will give citizens real input into the future of the department."

Kolisch said anything, and everything, related to fire protection can be debated as the department contemplates its future. "This has never been done before in Enumclaw," he said. "If you don't do it, you fall behind."

The first meeting to shape the strategic planning process begins at 7 p.m. on Feb. 17, in the meeting room at department headquarters (1330 Wells St. in Enumclaw). Meetings are slated for the first and third Monday of every month for four months.

The department is a joint effort of citizens in the city of Enumclaw and surrounding countryside. District boundaries are the Green River to the north and the White River to the south; district crews respond to calls as far as the Muckleshoot Reservation to the west and to the vicinity of the Weyerhaeuser mill to the east. Kolisch estimates his department serves between 25,000 and 45,000 residents.

The department has an array of traditional firefighting equipment and vehicles, and has equipment and trained staff to handle emergencies in the water, in winter conditions and in the mountains. Until the late 1970s, the department was involved primarily with fighting fires; now, about 75 percent of the calls are for medical treatment, the chief estimates.

The department operates with five paid firefighters, about 70 volunteers, one full-time secretary and a part-time secretary. Three stations are maintained - headquarters in downtown Enumclaw, a station west of town and another in Cumberland.

Kolisch said the planning process could look at everything from new programs to expanding district boundaries. And while district staff can participate, it's hoped the public will step forward with suggestions.

"Somebody on the outside looking in," Kolisch said, "will have a different way of looking at things."

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com

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