Gold Bar, Index fire districts merge under new contract

GOLD BAR — Two more Snohomish County fire districts are merging.

A contract takes effect Wednesday that will combine the management and staff from District 26 in Gold Bar and District 28 in Index. Both districts are primarily staffed by volunteers.

District 28 will continue to exist until Index voters approve a measure to bring them into District 26, according to Gold Bar Fire Chief Eric Andrews. The exact date for the ballot measure hasn’t been decided. It’s likely to happen later this year or early next year.

The move follows a local and national trend toward consolidating fire protection services. Districts in Monroe and Clearview, where Andrews also works, completed a merger last year. Arlington and Marysville are talking about a new partnership, as are Lynnwood and Fire District 1 based in south Everett.

The Index district serves about 1,000 full-time residents living on more than 170 square miles. Gold Bar firefighters serve about 6,500 people in 36 square miles. Combined, their annual budget will fall just under $1 million.

Andrews will stay as chief, and Index Fire Chief Ernie Walters will become an assistant chief.

As is common at rural fire departments, the two chiefs have struggled in recent years to recruit enough volunteers to cover around-the-clock emergencies.

Most of their emergency calls are medical in nature, and Gold Bar crews are summoned to nearly every major incident between their town and Stevens Pass.

The idea of merging surfaced years earlier, but Walters brought it up again. The two boards of commissioners approved the contract earlier this year.

“It seems good sense to combine both districts because we work together so much already,” Walters said. “It would make it an easy transition, plus we can provide better service and more service.”

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @rikkiking.

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