City of Tacoma proposing reduced fire engine service

The City of Tacoma is considering a proposal to reduce fire engine service as part of its 2021-2022 budget.

Hans Stegemoeller lives next to one of Tacoma's 16 firehouses and said he's torn about the proposal.

"The first thought that I had was maybe that's a bad thing because I don't want to have an emergency and not have help, but the more I think about it, I just want to know more about the numbers and how much we're using right now," said Stegemoeller.

The city proposed shifting resources from fire engines to basic life support (BLS) transport units; a service the Tacoma Fire Department does not provide. In a letter sent out to residents, the Tacoma Professional Firefighters Union says fewer engines would reduce fire protection by nearly 20% and it would endanger the community.

"Our fire chief had said during his presentation that this will affect response times. This will have a major impact on the emergencies we respond to," said Matt Frank, Secretary-Treasurer of Tacoma Firefighters Local 31.

The city of Tacoma says while all services have increased in demand, EMS is the highest in need. In a statement, Mayor Victoria Woodards said in part:

“Public safety in all its forms remains among our highest priorities as a city. The work our Fire Department does is deeply important and saves lives. In these unprecedented times, we are required by law to finalize and pass a balanced budget by year-end while being financially constrained by the economic impacts of COVID-19. Throughout the budget process, we will be looking closely to ensure that we can continue to provide for all our community needs. I, along with my colleagues, will be reviewing a revised proposal tomorrow that would mitigate the fire service impacts compared to what is in the proposed budget, and I look forward to continued conversation as we work to finalize this budget.”

Residents can weigh in at Tuesday's city council meeting on Zoom at 5 p.m.

Dial: 253-215-8782 Meeting ID: 848 3423 3126
Webinar Link: Passcode: 349099