Key Peninsula’s Fire District No. 16 has moved forward under the direction of its new Chief Tom Lique, who had been acting chief since last year and officially as chief since Jan. 1. The KP News spoke with Lique recently to find out about the transition, his future goals, and the department’s operations.

“I am feeling good about the direction of the department. I believe my experience and knowledge of the organization and the department, and its members’ knowledge of me have made my transition smooth to this point,” he said. “I believe my relationship with (the union) and elected members of the organization is based on a mutual respect of each of our roles in serving the citizens of the Key Peninsula. I believe morale is good and our members are excited about the future of the department.”

Under the direction of a three-member Board of Commissioners, Lique manages the district’s $4 million annual budget, a staff of about 30 volunteer fire suppression and medical aid personnel, and 17 staff EMT/firefighters and paramedics. Lique said the citizens of the Key Peninsula have always been fair to the department when it came to meeting resource needs, supporting bonds to build stations and purchase equipment, and levy lid-lift support when needed.

He explained that minimum career staffing for the department is three members per shift, of which one member must be a certified paramedic and one must be an officer, comprising a guaranteed medic unit on duty each day. Lique believes a need exists for more staffing within the department, and stated, “My concern is on these minimum-staffed days, one 911 medical aid call and transport drops our in-district shift staff to one career member and any available volunteers. Using this model, back to back calls create the need to rely more on mutual aid responses from surrounding fire districts.”

Volunteer members usually respond from their homes, based on their personal schedules and availability. A limited number live in the fire stations as “resident volunteers.” Fifteen career staff work set 24-hour assignments. Two members, added to staff in September 2005, are assigned to a floating 24-hour shift.

Lique said, “The addition of the floating shift has allowed us to increase staff to four members about 80 percent of the time (two medic crews), one stationed in Wauna and one in Home.”

In 2004, a $1.99 million levy was approved for the purchase of trucks and firefighting equipment.  “To date we have purchased four  2004 fire engines, two ‘Jaws of Life’ style rescue tools, and we expect to receive this month a 2006 medium duty rescue truck. We are in the process of writing specs for one new tender and one command vehicle to be purchased as indicated with this levy,” Lique said.

Proceeds from last summer’s sale of the old Wauna station, $456,885.31, are in a construction fund, dedicated for use in adding a meeting/training wing to the new Station 1 in Wauna. Lique said, “At this time, the monies in the construction fund do not meet the projected cost of the project. The commissioners have indicated that monies from the operating budget would be used if this project is to be completed.”

A community committee will seek voter approval on a levy lid-lift this fall. If the lift is approved, Lique said, “One of my priorities is that of additional personnel… Our assigned staffing would increase to seven career members per shift… three at the Wauna fire station and four at the Home fire station. With seven career members per shift, the scheduled staffing level can be maintained at five to six members.

“The auditor keeps a keen eye on how we use voter-approved monies. Special levies and bonds are obligated to purchase the items the public was told they would purchase.”

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