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Half of West Thurston Regional firefighters could lose their jobs if next levy fails, chief says

If the levy fails, cuts will be inevitable, said Fire Chief Rob Smith. That could lead to increased response times to 911 calls.

THURSTON COUNTY, Wash. — More than half of the firefighters of the West Thurston Regional Fire Authority could lose their jobs and three of the five department stations could be closed if voters fail to approve a levy in November, according to Fire Chief Rob Smith.

The West Thurston Regional Fire Authority prides itself on having the latest tools and well-trained staff to handle everything from deadly crashes on I-5 to water rescues, and summer brush fires, but the agency's abilities could be facing deep cuts. 

In August, a levy to continue funding for the agency failed to receive the required super-majority.

”It is disappointing for sure, it was definitely a surprise,” said Smith.

He said the agency is struggling to keep up with a growing population and a steady increase in calls for service. Between 2013 and 2021, calls have increased by 40%, according to station data.

The agency has decided to give voters another chance to raise revenue in November.

"We need that in order to be able to maintain effective service to our citizens," Smith said.

Under the proposal, homeowners would be charged an average of $1.60 based on every $1,000 assessed value.

They are currently paying an average of 97 cents per $1,000 assessed value.

Without the increase, Smith said cuts will be inevitable, potentially doubling the time it takes for his reduced staff to respond to 911 calls.

“It will definitely increase response times and people will be impacted,” said Smith, “We won’t be able to avoid it.”

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