This firetruck serves the South County Fire District. (City of Lynnwood)

This firetruck serves the South County Fire District. (City of Lynnwood)

Residents, firefighters urge Edmonds to be annexed by South County Fire

Edmonds has about a year to decide how it will provide fire services when a contract with South County ends.

EDMONDS — The best option for the future of fire services in Edmonds is annexation into South County Fire, some South County Fire firefighters and Edmonds residents said at a public hearing Tuesday.

In December, South County Fire announced its plans to terminate its contract with Edmonds at the end of 2025. South County executives said the contract, first approved in 2010, isn’t enough to keep up with current demand. While other cities have already annexed into the fire authority, Edmonds contracts for South County Fire’s services.

A study commissioned by the city produced three options:

• Be annexed by South County Fire. Estimated cost: $17.8 million annually and a total of $77 monthly for the average household.

• Relaunch the disbanded Edmonds Fire Department. Estimated cost: $19.2 million per year, $79 monthly for the average household.

• Enter into a contract with the Shoreline Fire Department. Estimated cost: $24.9 million per year, $93 monthly for the average household.

On Tuesday, South County firefighter union president Patrick Moore said: “I think we’ve hopefully clearly seen what probably the best option is moving forward.”

“We’d like to continue being that option and having a permanent place to continue serving the residents of Edmonds,” Moore said.

Shoreline fire’s union president Doug Loeser said South County has provided good service for the city, and Edmonds should do what it can to retain that service.

“You do whatever you can to maintain your good employees,” Loeser said Tuesday. “I just definitely recommend the council continue to work with the regional fire authority.”

Annexation could reduce the city’s general fund expenses by over $6.6 million, according to Fitch & Associates, the company hired by the city. The move would also require voter approval before the end of 2025.

Edmonds currently pays less for fire services than the other cities served by South County Fire: Mill Creek, Brier, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood. The department subsidizes the city’s payments to keep up with demand, South County Fire Commission Chair Jim Kenny told the City Council in April.

Edmonds’ fire budget for 2024 was $12.5 million, but South County says fire services could cost $17.8 million if the city were annexed, according to city documents. That cost gap is one of the major reasons why the fire department chose to terminate its contract.

Former Edmonds City Council member Ron Wambolt said the city should revive its fire department, dormant since 2009.

“Reestablishing our own fire department may require expenses and possibly a vote for higher property taxes, but that’s preferable to not having full control of such a major expense,” Wambolt said.

Council members haven’t yet stated their preference, aside from Jenna Nand who has said she favored being annexed into South County.

Reviving the Edmonds Fire Department would cost about $19 million annually, while an initial renovation of the city’s fire stations could cost about $20 million, according to the Fitch & Associates study. The city would also have to hire more personnel and order new equipment.

The study lists Shoreline Fire as an option due to the department’s proximity to Edmonds, but contracting with the department would require an agreement with King County, where residents are unlikely to want to subsidize Edmonds’ fire services, Nand said in April.

Ashley Nash: 425-339-3037; ashley.nash@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @ash_nash00.

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