Questions worth asking

In what may be a surprise to some, East County Fire and Rescue officials have recently reached out to Camas-Washougal Fire Department leaders hoping to explore expanded partnership opportunities.

This process is in the very early stages. So far, only a study of the financial ramifications of a potential merger or expanded partnership has been proposed. More decisions on the issue are likely to come in July.

To a certain degree, the move is unexpected. In the past, for a variety of reasons efforts to consolidate ECFR with other local fire departments have failed. And more recently, some ECFR officials were quite vocal about not wanting to pursue that avenue.

However, times, situations and leadership at the rural, volunteer-based fire department have changed drastically during the past few years. The district has welcomed three new commissioners since November 2014, and shrinking tax revenues have forced the five current ECFR leaders to get creative and consider all of their options.

At this point, there is a great deal of research that needs to take place and discussion that needs happen between all parties involved, if this effort is to move forward.

As Camas City Councilman Greg Anderson put it during Monday’s workshop, “I want this to be good, complete and believable. I want to make sure it’s transparent and not a surprise to anybody.”

At the most basic level, the questions are: Can ECFR expand its partnership with CWFD in ways that maintain or improve the current level of service the district’s population receives, while also making financial sense?

These are not simple questions, but they are worth asking, and worth getting thoroughly answered.