City proposes to explore regional fire services model

City manager issues letter of recommendation.

Mercer Island City Manager Jessi Bon has issued a letter to the community regarding her office’s recommendation that the city begin exploring the adoption of a regional fire services model.

Bon will bring the proposal to the table at the April 4 regular city council meeting and ask for council’s approval to seek further extensive collaboration with the city of Bellevue and Eastside Fire & Rescue. Bon added in the letter that in order to maintain service demand, most adjacent communities have rolled out the regional model, in which a larger, integrated fire agency provides comprehensive fire services across multiple communities.

The top priority for the city and the Mercer Island Fire Department (MIFD) is placing a serious focus on Islanders’ safety and well-being while employing the best practices possible, Bon wrote. The benefits of a regional model include enhanced services for the Island community, cost reductions and improved resources and opportunities for firefighters.

“I want to reiterate that any decision to adopt a regional fire service model will not have an adverse impact on our fire department’s response time or the safety of our community. Since its inception, the city’s fire staff have done a remarkable job keeping the Mercer Island community safe,” noted Bon, adding that MIFD’s stations 91 and 92 will remain open and operational if a transition occurs. “We are proud of our dedicated fire personnel and owe it to them to ensure they remain an integral part of our community.”

Since the calls to MIFD — one of the region’s few remaining autonomous departments — in today’s world involve myriad situations like emergency medical and hazmat services, water rescue and recovery and more, a robust team effort between neighboring agencies is required to provide stronger services to the community, according to the city.

Cost savings further enters into the picture with regional fire services’ “larger administrative efficiency and scale, when compared to smaller, independent fire departments,” Bon wrote, adding that Bellevue fire and Eastside Fire & Rescue are immensely experienced in the regional fire services provider realm. Impacts of the potential transition on local personnel will be bargained with Mercer Island’s International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 1762.

“My office is committed to a productive and transparent evaluation process that will allow residents to review and provide feedback on the proposals,” Bon added.

Currently, the city’s contract with Eastside Fire & Rescue has that agency’s Ben Lane leading the Mercer Island department as interim fire chief and Doug McDonald serving as the Island’s interim deputy fire chief.

The Reporter reached out to the IAFF Local 1762 for a comment but didn’t receive a response at post time. The story will be updated when additional information becomes available.

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