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Automatic aid agreements-Perpetuating the Bureaucracy

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  • Automatic aid agreements-Perpetuating the Bureaucracy

    The recent Bofer Canyon Fire would test any fire department. Wind driven flames, over open range land is hard too put out. It's hard to get out in front and stay out in front of it. I'm sure the firefighters on scene made a valiant effort. But still, more available firefighters in Kennewick could have made a difference.

    Area fire officials have started automatic aid to replace mutual aid. Mutual aid that had worked for years as a good emergency response backup between fire departments, but not automatically as a first response like it is now. This has the three cities and 5-6 area fire districts all responding as one fire force. Each Fire agency relying on the other fire departments for first response and keeping their Department?s firefighter numbers dangerously low. Robbing Peter to pay Paul makes it easy to get caught shorthanded in a major emergency, like the Bofer Canyon Fire. Kennewick Fire had 18 firefighters on duty according to reports. I assume they were all available. That's lucky because I'm pretty sure that 18 firefighters on duty includes those covering the fire medic units that are quite often out on a call, maybe even two calls. With the auto aid agreement some of these Kennewick Firefighters could have been tied up responding to another community's emergency. Lucky that they weren't. Considering that KFD covers EMS in their end of the County and firefighting in Kennewick and the other jurisdictions too; Kennewick Fire could have easily had 24 firefighters on duty that day.

    And this automatic aid is a terrible deal for all the taxpayers and even worse for some of the taxpayers. Last time I checked Kennewick and Richland Taxpayers invested the most in firefighter training effort with the State Firefighter/Fire Officer Apprenticeship Program. A program that comes with considerable cost and effort. Pasco and the local county fire districts don't go to this level of firefighter/fire officer training, last time I checked. So, the automatic aid trade-off for each other's firefighters and fire officers is not equal for all taxpayers.

    The three cities hire only immediate response pro firefighters, while the County Fire Districts operate with a few immediate response pro firefighters and mostly delayed response volunteer firefighters. So that automatic aid trade-off for each other's fire forces is again not equal. And each taxpayer group pays a different amount for their fire rescue service, making this all-for-one automatic aid fire response also not equal among all taxpayers. And in the Kennewick briefing report (TCH) I read for this Bofer fire, I saw no mention of automatic aid, only the old mutual aid.

    If the TC area Taxpayers understood the reason for and impact of this TC area auto aid fire response deal, they would want no part of it. For the reasons mentioned above for sure. But the real reason auto aid fire response is bad for taxpayers involved is because all these auto aid deals do is perpetuate the area's expensive fire administrations, perpetuate the bureaucracy. The automatic aid deal has area fire department's responding as a single fire response, with 8-9 separate and costly fire administrations. If taxpayers were given the chance to vote for a new metro fire district, a chance to vote that they were never given with this automatic aid backroom deal, the tri cities area could shed 7-8 very expensive redundant fire administrations and replace them with a single Fire Administration. This would no doubt save a few million tax dollars annually for area Fire Administration Costs, that could be used to increase the area's pro firefighter response considerably area wide. Maybe an additional 30-40 firefighters on the line area wide.
    Last edited by Bigjohn24; 09-05-2018, 10:50 AM.

  • #2
    You really seem to have a burr under your saddle about that automatic mutual aid thing. I suggest you address your local tax concerns in the venue where you may make a difference, and that is with the respective fire district administrations or the district voters.


    • #3
      I am active with these issues locally and State-wide. I am sharing here also, because information is power,

      This is happening across Washington State, not sure about other States.

      Just a heads up to my fellow Firefighters.


      • #4
        Automatic aid by and large is a GOOD thing both for firefighter AND Citizens. Citizens don't give a damn what name is on the side of equipment that shows up when they're in need. And when an FD has to wait for a delayed mutual response, it puts them behind the 8 ball. No mutual or automatic aid pact is ever going to be 100% equal, that's just a fact that has to be lived with. But yes it should be somewhat fair.
        My full time station is across the street and less than 200 yds, from a township that puts us FOURTH on the response card for reports of fires, and most anything else. Hell, they had a fatal A/A with entrapment with at least 3 victims about that far away, and never called our engine or medic. It was at night, so we never heard it.
        But my rural POC FD runs automatic with 3 other full time depts., and it works quite well. We run mutual aide with several other depts., and it's clear that if they had us automatically dispatched on runs, it would cut 5-8 minutes off of our response times. We don't care about getting cancelled, but it is aggravating to see other depts wait to call for help.


        • #5
          So why bring this here? What do you expect from firehouse.com members?

          All three departments I am on use auto aid. the 2 combo departments I work for for structure fires and the third volly FD for any call from 6am to 6pm. It has worked great for us.
          Last edited by FyredUp; 09-05-2018, 02:40 PM.
          Crazy, but that's how it goes
          Millions of people living as foes
          Maybe it's not too late
          To learn how to love, and forget how to hate


          • #6
            Automatic aid is good for fire administrations perpetuating their bureaucracy.

            Not good for firefighters and especially not taxpayers.

            Folks should care what the name on the fire pumper says. Other community fire departments are great for backing each other up with mutual aid during large emergencies and multiple emergencies, not for responding as first response for each other. Might as well join into one fire service.

            Way better to join fire administrations into one, as well as firefighter response.

            Mutual aid was always good and necessary. Automatic aid just allows the powers that be to end run any lawful process for joining fire agencies into one agency, with only one fire administration.

            In this Tr-Cities example you have 8-9 separate fire agencies responding as one fire agency with 8-9 Fire Chiefs. That's the definition of redundancy and inefficiency. Just to perpetuate the costly bureaucracy. In my opinion. I think that money would be better spent on firefighters.

            The money saved with one fire administration, instead of 8 or 9 fire administrations would be considerable. Even trimming down two or three fire administrations into one would be financially worthwhile.

            Then there is the ever present danger of fire agencies keeping their firefighter numbers down while relying on other Fire Agencies for first response.


            • #7
              Just something to think about fyredup.

              Why not just have one fire administration instead of three? Automatic aid makes it one fire response with 3 fire administrations for you and the taxpayers,

              Do you think all 3 different taxpayer groups pay the same for each fire department or is one group getting by on the cheap? Do all folks pay equally for the single fire response under automatic aid? If not there is a taxpayer group or two getting shortchanged on the all for one automatic aid fire response payment system, and one taxpayer group getting by on the cheap.

              Just something to think about.
              Last edited by Bigjohn24; 09-05-2018, 03:13 PM.


              • #8
                You are barking up the wrong tree.

                It's not automatic mutual aid that keeps your fire districts from merging. It is local politics that does so. Automatic aid is just a process to make the most effective (if sometimes not efficient) use of local resources. If you have a problem with 'over dispatch', then that should be addressed by paring back the run-cards. Not every 'food on the stove' needs an assignment with 9 pieces of apparatus and 3 battalion chiefs.


                • #9
                  My county has 42 purely volunteer departments, two career staffed, and a couple with paid drivers that are otherwise volunteer staffed.

                  Given the dwindling number of volunteers, automatic aid is a no-brainer. Merging districts/departments won't change that. It might cut down on the number of tones going out, but not much more. We're still short on people. Sometimes those three or four departments will muster just an engine, a tanker, and a rescue, plus an officer or two. Sometimes there's a traffic jam at the scene.

                  One of the career-staffed departments routinely goes out on automatics. The other rarely does so - I don't they they are on anyone's run card - if they go out, it's a special call. It's largely a difference in the philosophies of the two department.

                  As noted, politics is a significant factor. New York is a "home rule" state - the power is with the lowest levels of government. No higher entity can force a merge - the agencies involved have to agree. There are places around the county where such consolidation would be a good thing - stations that can be hit from their neighboring station with a well-thrown rock, if you will. It made sense when roads were rudimentary and apparatus was slow, but not so much today.

                  We have several fire districts with more than one fire company - and each company is dispatched as a separate unit. Sometimes they include the other departments in their district on their run cards, sometimes they don't.

                  My department took a beating for a while when our sister department in the district decided that if they went, we should go. Fully a third of our calls that year had a "situation found" as "cancelled enroute." Doesn't do much for morale.

                  A county fire department would certainly take care of some of the issues - but the mechinations necessary to make that happen are probably insurmountable.

                  Opinions my own. Standard disclaimers apply.

                  Everyone goes home. Safety begins with you.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Bigjohn24 View Post
                    Just something to think about fyredup.

                    Why not just have one fire administration instead of three? Automatic aid makes it one fire response with 3 fire administrations for you and the taxpayers,

                    Do you think all 3 different taxpayer groups pay the same for each fire department or is one group getting by on the cheap? Do all folks pay equally for the single fire response under automatic aid? If not there is a taxpayer group or two getting shortchanged on the all for one automatic aid fire response payment system, and one taxpayer group getting by on the cheap.

                    Just something to think about.
                    Yeah nice try. My volly FD is 45 miles from one combo and 92 from the other. so this isn't about them working together.

                    At this point I'm not even sure you are a firefighter. My bet is you are either a city councilman or a consultant looking to make what you believe will be cost saving move.
                    Last edited by FyredUp; 09-05-2018, 11:47 PM.
                    Crazy, but that's how it goes
                    Millions of people living as foes
                    Maybe it's not too late
                    To learn how to love, and forget how to hate


                    • #11
                      subscribed, this seems like a very interesting thread


                      • #12
                        Retired Firefighter, EMT and Paramedic too, Fyrredup, didn't mean to disturb your sensibilities with this post.

                        Nice Try? Not sure what that mean Just something to think about.

                        You a Volunteer?
                        Last edited by Bigjohn24; 09-05-2018, 10:44 PM.


                        • #13
                          I dont think it is a given that a consolidated department would have a lower administrative overhead than independent departments that cooperate in a automatic mutual aid system. Larger organizations tend to grown their own middle-management with supervisors, clipboard carriers and assistants to the regional manager.


                          • #14
                            I just think when Fire Departments and Fire Districts start responding asone fire agency at the ground level that combining fire administrations makes good economic sense for taxpayers. I have also never seen an automatic aid agreement where all the different taxpayer groups are paying the same for their all for one fire protection. I'll betcha one of the taxpayer groups is getting by on the cheap, on the backs of the other taxpayer groups.

                            Like the following deal with the town of Prosser Wa and Benton County Fire Protection District 3:

                            Regional Fire Service Authorities (RFSA) are an option for combining fire departments and fire districts in Washington State.This is what Prosser and BCFD3 finally did, after first combining their fire rescue forces by interlocal agreement. A combining of Prosser and BCFD3 taxpayers by interlocal agreement that was every bit as unfair for their taxpayers as the interlocal agreement for fire automatic aid in TC's is for it's taxpayers. BCFD3 taxpayers were stuck paying considerably more in property taxes than Prosser Taxpayers for their all for one fire rescue service by interlocal agreement. Now with the voter approved RFSA, both Prosser and BCFD3 Taxpayers pay the same in taxes for the same all for one fire rescue service. As it should be.


                            • #15

                              Less so with combining two or three departments maybe, but you think going from three fire administrations down to one wouldn't save money? I think it would.

                              And in Tri Cities WA their auto aid fire agreement is between 8-9 fire agencies with 8-9 fire administrations. I know they could sabe fire admin money going from 8-9 fire admins down to one.

                              I think fire admins push fire auto aid over joining forces totally, just to save their jobs.


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