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Vancouver's Fire Service Delivery Restructures for Growing Community

The City of Vancouver celebrated the opening of Fire Station No. 1 on 3 February 2018.

For the City of Vancouver, Washington, leveraging public service resources to accommodate growing community needs amid a changing economy provided challenges and opportunities. In 2012, the city manager and fire chief worked together in an effort to explore ways to maintain and improve the effectiveness of the Vancouver Fire Department (VFD) in light of increased costs and reduced revenues. At the time, the VFD faced a funding crisis that could result in staff reductions, and the City needed an action plan.

BergerABAM was retained by the City to design and implement a process to research and recommend possible operational changes within the VFD. To broaden the discussion, the City involved a group of citizens and established a Community Resource Team (CRT). Working with the City, BergerABAM facilitated the CRT through a series of meetings to gather ideas aimed at redesigning how fire services could be delivered in the most cost-effective and efficient manner while allowing the department to keep pace with community growth. The process resulted in development of the City’s 2012 Fire Service Delivery Analysis report that identified several initiatives and long-term considerations to improve the efficiency and financial health of the VFD.

As part of the process, the City also needed an assessment of its existing facilities in order to plan for future growth and share with voters for a bond measure to make the needed capital improvements, including new fire stations. For this effort, BergerABAM conducted a facility assessment of 10 existing fire stations, as well as the Public Works Operations Center campus, including more than a dozen stand-alone buildings.

By 2017, Vancouver was experiencing substantial growth and development, resulting in an increase in emergency service calls. Through an initiative dubbed “Vancouver Strong,” the City began reevaluating all of its service lines and developing long-term, sustainable funding options for capital initiatives. BergerABAM was brought back on to reconvene the CRT. Scott Keillor and Nicole McDermott, of BergerABAM’s Vancouver office, facilitated the meetings and gathered input on capital, operating, and fire prevention initiatives that would improve the reliability, preparedness, and safety of the VFD. Initiatives included relocating and rebuilding fire stations, including new and remodeled facilities; new ordinances to improve fire prevention programs; and new staff to support the VFD’s growing operations.

The City is now working from a 2018 update to the Fire Service Delivery Analysis report prepared by BergerABAM.