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Three being added to Fire Department staff

As part of a master plan to improve response times, three new firefighters are being added to the local department’s roster of employees.

The combined department, jointly sponsored by the city of Enumclaw and King County Fire Protection District 28, serves residents in and around Enumclaw. All pay taxes to support the operation, which includes a headquarters building in the heart of town and outlying stations.

The city and the district’s board of commissioners were at loggerheads at one time, but agreed to contribute equally to a master plan and follow its findings. One of the key recommendations was to increase the number of professional firefighters so there would be paid staff on duty around the clock.

Currently, there are several hours of the day when there are no professional firefighters on duty; at certain times, there are not any volunteers present, either.

Paid firefighters end their shift at 6 p.m. and there is no one staffing the primary station until volunteers arrive at 9 p.m. for the “sleepover” shift. When they depart in the morning, there is sometimes a gap before the paid staff arrives.

“We’re trying to close those gaps,” City Administrator Mark Bauer said.

The three new firefighters have been hired and will begin work Monday, Bauer said.

Schedules will be developed, he added, with a goal of always having at least two paid staff on duty at all times.

The cost of the additional employees will be paid from reserve funds during 2009, Bauer said, noting that taxpayers will likely be asked to provide more money to support those salaries starting in 2010.

District 28 commissioners have indicated they will likely put a “lid lift” proposal on an August ballot, Bauer said, and the city could follow suit. It’s early in the process, he said, and funding sources still need to be explored.

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While taking steps to upgrade the fire department’s professional presence, local officials are also taking early steps toward finding a permanent chief.

Longtime chief Joe Kolisch retired and Enumclaw Police Chief Jim Zoll headed both departments for a time. Doug Dawson has filled in on an interim basis.

Details are still being put together outlining what will be expected of a new chief and what the compensation package will look like, City Administrator Mark Bauer said. The hope is to be advertising the position within a couple of weeks.

Reach Kevin Hanson at khanson@courierherald.com or 360-802-8205.

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