The Bothell City Council unanimously passed at its Dec. 17 meeting a new agreement affecting the fire departments of Bothell and other North King County cities.
Called the North King County Training Consortium, the agreement impacts, in addition to the Bothell Fire Department (BFD), Woodinville Fire & Rescue and the Shoreline and Northshore fire departments.
The purpose of the consortium is to centralize and make more efficient training efforts among the entities. The individualized nature of the training in the departments has been effective, according to Bothell Fire Chief Bruce Kroon. Still, agencies have found that they have been unable to reach a higher standard as a result.
“By getting together and working collaboratively, we can reduce some of those duplication of efforts,” Kroon said, noting that currently, the four different departments have four respective training officers covering multiple topics. “We’ll have folks instead of being generalists and working on all kinds of training development…[working] on two or three areas of expertise and become subject matter experts. That would lift up our training ability to give better training to folks so we’re not spread out so far and they can focus on better training. I think that’s going to be very helpful.”
Kroon said that the agreement doesn’t require a new hiring process. Instead, the roles of existing department personnel would work in conjunction with the inter-local agreement, with the intent of decreasing workloads and ultimately improving and streamlining how the departments respond in the field.
It would also not create a new governmental entity. The agreement, according to Kroon, will result in the enactment of an oversight board comprised of four chiefs and an operations board constituting a training director and four deputy chiefs.
Kroon said that the agreement and what it entails is similar to the fire-response practices in zone three of King County, which covers everything south of Renton.
“It’s very successful,” Kroon said. “And part of the reason [zone three is] doing that is because it is a training consortium but it’s not department specific…It’s seamless training we get for those folks. And it’s been working out very well.”
The agreement will create an ongoing financial obligation for the city of Bothell. According to the meeting agenda item, the annual value will be offset by training resources contributed to the consortium by the city. As of the Dec. 17 meeting, it is expected that the city will be contributing between no funds and $900,000 for 2020. However, the allotment number will not be finalized until resource needs have been conclusively determined.
“The financial contribution is an un-budgeted general fund expense and will likely require a budget amendment when the value is certain,” the meeting agenda item states, adding that while the agreement will not cause direct savings — it could actually increase costs — it would still see through higher levels of training.
The agreement, according to Kroon, formalizes the group. Previous to the consortium’s passage, the departments being officially linked had already worked collaboratively.
The entities began discussing training consolidation in early 2019.
This isn’t the first time Bothell has approved similar agreements, as noted in meeting documents. In 1999, Bothell’s council approved a training agreement for the fire department with the Northshore Fire Department. Then, in 2003, council passed an agreement that resulted in the BFD’s ability to expand training activities so that it could include the Northshore and Shoreline fire departments.
And in 2014, Bothell City Council voted in favor of allowing the department to join eight other Eastside jurisdictions in the East Metro Training Group (EMTG), which has provided training through a best practices manual, a firefighter academy and multi-company operations.
Though deputy mayor Davina Duerr had some clarifying questions about the financial impact on the city the agreement would have, the council was across-the-board supportive of the consortium.
“Firefighting is an inherently dangerous job,” said councilmember Tom Agnew. “You get better by two things: experience or training. And you’ve got to have training, because those new guys coming in don’t have the experience. I totally, fully support this, saying I think this is the wave of the future. I think we will reap huge benefits from this — maybe not initially, but definitely down the road.”