Camas, Washougal city councils form committee to explore new fire district

Officials could place regional fire authority issue on April 2025 ballot

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A fire engine sits in front of the Camas-Washougal Fire Department's Station 43 in Washougal, April 30, 2022. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record files)

Camas and Washougal officials took their next step toward the formation of a regional fire authority this month with the formation of the Regional Fire Authority Planning Committee.

The committee, which includes Camas City Council members Marilyn Boerke, Bonnie Carter and John Nohr and Washougal City Council members Molly Coston Julie Russell and Michelle Wagner, met for the first time Wednesday, March 6, and will continue to meet twice a month, on the first and third Wednesdays, for the next several months.

Camas City Administrator Doug Quinn told Camas City Council members Monday, March 4, that the resolution forming the RFA planning committee is “the next step in the continuation of the shared services model utilized by the Camas-Washougal Fire Department.”

Though the cities of Camas and Washougal recently agreed to extend the 10-year interlocal agreement that merged the two cities’ fire departments in 2013, “both cities have agreed to discuss the formation of a regional fire protection authority that, if voted into existence by a majority of residents within the area of both cities,” Quinn said, “would reform the current partnership to install the RFA.”

According to the Municipal Research and Services Center, a Seattle-based nonprofit supporting local government jurisdictions in Washington state, a regional fire protection service authority — most commonly called a regional fire authority or RFA — is “a special purpose district created by the vote of the people residing in the proposed district” that has its own governing board consisting of elected officials and acts as an independent taxing authority. There are at least 15 RFAs in the state of Washington, including the Riverside Fire Authority, which encompasses the city of Centralia and the Lewis County Fire District No. 12, about 60 miles north of Clark County.

The RFA planning committee, Quinn added, must discuss the potential RFA’s operations, staffing, service levels and other RFA concerns and make recommendations to the city councils in Camas and Washougal.

“The formation of the committee does not obligate the city to approve the formation of an RFA,” Quinn said, “but is a required step to advance the RFA for future consideration by the Council.”

Voters in Camas and Washougal will ultimately decide if they are willing to form the regional fire authority.

At the committee’s first meeting March 6, members discussed hiring outside resources to help facilitate the committee during what members called the “heavy lift” issues and to help formulate a plan for public outreach.

“We have talked about this conversation being facilitated,” Quinn told the planning committee members last week. “It seems helpful. Otherwise, you’re relying on (Washougal City Manager David Scott) and myself and probably (CWFD Fire Chief Cliff Free) to do that. Personally, I think it would be beneficial to have a professional (facilitator) … because we are asking for this work to be done very, very quickly.”

Scott, Washougal’s city manager, said he also thought it would be a good idea to hire outside help for the public outreach portion of the committee’s work.

“It would be great to have someone … not only for the election, but somebody to communicate what’s happening and working with communications directors in Camas and Washougal to push things out on our websites, social media sites, etcetera so that every step is transparent and we can (tell the public) ‘Here’s what’s happening,’” Scott said.

Quinn agreed.

“We definitely want this to be a community conversation, and I think facilitation of that would be helpful,” Quinn said.

The committee members hope to meet twice a month for the next seven months and have a draft RFA plan ready to bring to the city councils by November. If all goes according to plan — and Camas-Washougal officials vote to place the RFA question on the ballot — voters could decide the issue in the April 2025 special election.

“It’s an aggressive timeline,” Carter said during the committee’s March 6 meeting. “We need to make sure we know what support we need … and be prepared when we have those heavy lifts.”

The committee plans to select its chairperson during its next meeting, which is set for 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 20, at Camas City Hall. The meetings also are live-streamed and available on Zoom. For more information, visit