MONROE — Two more Snohomish County fire districts are talking about merging.
They are District 8 in Lake Stevens and District 7, which is based in Monroe and also serves Clearview, Maltby and much of unincorporated Snohomish south of the Snohomish River.
Together, the two agencies could provide fire protection and emergency medical services to about 160,000 people over 141 square miles. That’s roughly one in five residents in the county.
Their 2019 budgets would total more than $54 million.
The details are preliminary, but a ballot measure could be possible in 2020, Lake Stevens Fire Chief Kevin O’Brien said. The leading option at this point is for District 7 to absorb Lake Stevens, he said.
“It looks like a good fit,” he said.
Emergency services in Snohomish County have seen many consolidations over the past decade, though not every plan prevailed. Fewer small cities and towns are finding it efficient to run their own police and fire departments, though some have questioned the loss of local control.
The Lake Stevens and Monroe districts don’t share a land border. That’s permitted under state law as long as they’re reasonably close to each other, O’Brien said.
They are getting ready to start scheduling public hearings on the merger proposal.
Already, they are sharing resources through a contract, including training, fire marshal services and public outreach, said Heather Chadwick, a spokeswoman for Fire District 7.
They are not yet combining staffing and equipment, though. District 7 has nearly 200 employees and District 8 has 87. Most of them are firefighters and paramedics.
They aren’t the only ones talking to their neighbors about working together.
In 2017, Lynnwood Fire Department and Fire District 1 combined to become South Snohomish County Fire & Rescue. It is an independent government body that’s called a regional fire authority.
In Marysville, the city and the local fire district have been meeting for years, in various settings, about creating a new kind of partnership with fewer political boundaries. Voters there could see a ballot measure later this year, potentially in April, on a proposed regional fire authority. That’s not final, though.
District 7, meanwhile, also serves the city of Mill Creek through a long-term agreement. Three years ago, it absorbed Monroe’s Fire District 3 after a public vote.
Last March, District 22 in Getchell sent a letter to District 7, suggesting the fire chiefs and commissioners get together to kick around ideas.
In its response, District 7 said it could be interested in the future but not until the Lake Stevens matter is resolved.