SNOHOMISH — The busiest fire station in Snohomish likely won’t be shut down — at least, not any time soon, says Fire District 4 Chief Ron Simmons.
It could have, though, under a proposed property swap between the district and the city of Snohomish.
The deal, which may now be on the chopping block, was that the city would gain complete ownership of Fire Station 41 at 427 Maple Avenue, and the district would get Fire Station 43, the main headquarters at 1525 Avenue D. The district also would obtain a third property that houses storage for fire equipment and the Snohomish Food Bank.
Neither the city nor the district plan to close the food bank, a joint statement released in January stated.
The negotiations have roots dating back to 2004, when the city let Fire District 4 take over fire protection services. At the time, the two public entities chose to split ownership of the three properties 50–50.
Simmons said the district previously has talked about remodeling and expanding Fire Station 43. But since the city has half ownership, the district would essentially be throwing money away on the renovations if commissioners decided to sell the facility down the road.
As for Fire Station 41, Simmons said the district has had trouble staffing the facility in recent years, having to rely on part-timers to keep it running. Operating all four of the district’s stations isn’t sustainable, he said.
In April of 2018, the city and district began discussing how to divvy up and decide full ownership of the buildings.
They eventually came to a tentative agreement. In a January statement, they advertised the move as a real estate exchange.
A candidate for the fire commission called it a “secret plan” to close a fire station without public input.
Evan Merritt put forth his claim in a video posted two weeks ago on his campaign’s Facebook page. In it, city administrator Steve Schuller is talking during a city tour of Fire Station 41. The tour was advertised as a special meeting in case enough council members attended to reach a quorum.
“The city is here in essence to look at our potential future property and see if we want to keep it,” Schuller said in the video.
He said he expected the deal to close in September.
The news caught Merritt by surprise. Apparently, it caught others off guard as well. The video garnered 11,000 views and was shared over 100 times. People began calling and emailing Simmons, and someone posted a sign outside the station informing passersby of its impending doom.
Merritt said Fire Station 41 was built in a spot that would take other stations minutes longer to reach.
“As a firefighter and a first responder myself, I know those minutes are super crucial in those really serious calls,” he said.
By the time the video was posted, though, Simmons said fire district commissioners already were considering a different plan, to gain full ownership of all three properties. The district and the city had yet to touch base on the idea, though, he said. It was officially announced to the public at a commission meeting Monday evening.
Simmons said commissioners never developed plans to close the station down, in any case. They only had vague discussions.
However, had the previous deal gone through, Schuller said the city was under the impression the station would no longer be providing fire service.
“The city is not in the fire business,” he said.
The Snohomish City Council was expected to discuss the district’s latest idea at a meeting Tuesday evening.