North Whidbey Fire and Rescue has grown by two fire engines, thanks to a levy lid lift passed two years ago.
Voters approved the increase in property taxes in November of 2020, and the additional income has been used to purchase over $1 million worth of new equipment, most notably the two new trucks and the associated equipment.
The new apparatuses, which cost $512,000 each, will replace two HME trucks from 2004, interim Chief Chris Swiger said.
One truck will reside at Station 25 on Heller Road. The department brought the truck to its new home in a traditional push-in ceremony Monday evening. The push-in tradition dates back to the 1800s, when firefighting apparatuses had to be detached from the horses that pulled them and pushed into the station, Swiger said. The other engine will go to Station 22 on Taylor Road within the next couple of weeks.
Levy funds also provided the department with $250,000 worth of new portable radios. Swiger said the department also plans to purchase 48 new self-contained breathing apparatuses — the ones the department currently uses are 15 years old.
Swiger expressed his gratitude to the taxpayers for approving the lid lift. He said updating equipment keeps firefighters safe, increases firefighters’ capacity to respond to catastrophes and keeps insurance rates from spiking for area residents.
He said though the 2020 levy lid lift was the first the department has asked for in a while, it might have to ask for another soon. For one thing, operation costs have increased. Swiger said the department will also be looking to replace some of its stations within the next five years.
The chief also said the department plans to put some money into refurbishing two of its old engines within the next two years. Refurbishing an engine costs around 60% of the cost of buying a new one, he said.