After reading Mr. T.J. Lamont’s latest letter to the editor, I’d like to point out that he has only told the North Whidbey Fire and Rescue citizens part of the story.
Everything he stated in his letter is basically true. The Washington administrative code does state that the sheriff in every county in Washington is responsible for all search and rescue.
The county hospital is responsible for providing EMS to the citizens that pay taxes or bonds to support that institution.
What Mr. Lamont left out is the fact that WhidbeyHealth has paid North Whidbey Fire and Rescue close to $500,000 for several years to provide two full-time basic life support ambulance crews. In addition to the payment for staffing, the hospital supplies the vehicles — ambulances — and all the maintenance on those vehicles.
The taxpayers are not being taxed twice for EMS services. The taxes paid to WhidbeyHealth are being used to provide EMS services and NWFR is being paid out of those taxes to provide supplemental basic life support service on the north end of Whidbey Island.
In a time when illegal drug use and the associated crimes are on an increase, a time when law enforcement officers are more often becoming targets, when the sheriff’s office is running one-person cars and is always over worked, Mr. Lamont is suggesting that they take on more tasking?
Would Mr. Lamont like to take deputies off the street and put them in boats, is he suggesting that they now take up high angle rescue training? These two areas of rescue are parts of fire departments all over the world.
I totally agree the firefighting equipment and training should be a priority for any fire department. I feel that the two programs that Mr. Lamont has mentioned are a very minor part of the budget.
I think that Mr. Lamont needs to better understand how the fire/EMS service is working today in Island County and not rely on what he knew in 2012. His apparent lack of understanding is why we need a commissioner who is knowledgeable and in tune with the current methods and processes.
If NWFR is going to get back to their primary responsibilities, which Mr. Lamont feels is fire protection only, then perhaps they should change their name to North Whidbey Fire Department and drop the word rescue from their name.