Winterhalter, Edmundson vie for Silvana Fire District commission
August 27, 2008 · Updated 5:11 PM
SILVANA Two locals are campaigning for an open seat on the Snohomish County Fire District No. 19 commission.
Six-term incumbent Roy Strotz is retiring from the Silvana Fire District after 36 years, and a pair of local firefighters want to replace him.
Kurt Winterhalter is a 53-year-old who works with the Snohomish County Public Works Department. He has lived in Silvana for 31 years and has worked in Alaska as a commercial fisherman for most of that time. He is a volunteer firefighter and president of the Fireman Association.
His opponent is Chris Edmundson, a full-time firefighter and emergency medical technician with Fire District No. 7 in Mill Creek, who has lived in Silvana for about two years.
The two have marked differences on how they would like the small, mostly volunteer Silvana district to operate, and Winterhalter is endorsed by Strotz, and fellow commissioner Mike Knudson, while Edmundson is backed by another District 19 commissioner, Steve Geiger.
Edmundson would like to start moving to staffing one of the two fire stations around the clock, saying it would decrease response times for emergency calls that are mostly medical in nature. Neighboring districts are staffed 24/7, Edmundson noted, and staffed stations have a response time of about two-and-a-half minutes, compared to eight minutes for those staffed by off-site volunteers.
Thats one of the big issues Im working on, Edmundson said.
While the fire district averages only one call per day, Edmundson said that call is always important to the person who had to dial those three precious numbers: 911.
The issue is that the money is already there, he said. How do you put a price on a life?
Currently the main firehouse is staffed from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., with one full-time firefighter supported by paid volunteers as needed. Those respond from their houses to the station for their gear, and then to the emergency calls. According to Winterhalter a station staffed all the time would be overkill for a district that averages 500 calls per year.
Its not cost effective, Winterhalter said.
A volunteer firefighter and EMT for more than 30 years, Winterhalter attended Central Washington University, majoring in criminal justice, with plans to be a game department officer. As a fire district commissioner he pledges to exercise fiscal responsibility while keeping the 3,200 residents in the 35-square-mile district safe. He has garnered the support of Strotz.
Eventually Snohomish County Fire District No. 19, as it is officially known, will be a full-time, fully-staffed district, particularly if a large, planned community is built near the area surrounding Lake Goodwin, he said.
Well have to plan for the growth, but well take it as it comes, Winterhalter said.
Edmundson said he wants to apply the knowledge and lessons from 13 years as a professional firefighter to the district he calls home. By securing support agreements and transport arrangements with other nearby districts Silvana can eliminate costly duplication of staff and equipment, he said. Transporting patients can generate revenue, since insurance companies cover the cost, he added, and deploying wild land firefighting equipment and staff brings money and valuable training opportunities.
We can do a lot of that with training, Edmundson said.
Growth is going to occur no matter what, so Edmundson wants to work on building relationships and communication with other nearby districts.
The other commissioners say the race is about the direction of the fire district. Steven Geiger has served for two years after he beat Winterhalters brother by only 4 votes. According to the CPA, the race to replace Strotz is really about the direction of the fire district, which has a $750,000 annual budget. Annual call volume has risen from 383 in 2002 to 535 in 2006, and this year Geiger expects to hit about 550 calls. About 80 percent of those are medical emergencies, he noted, and when a person has a heart attack paramedics must arrive within five to six minutes.
Geiger said most people calling 911 dont realize that there isnt a person at the firehouse when they call, and weekend coverage started in 2006, something Strotz was against. The vote between Winterhalter and Edmundson is a choice for new, modern practices or continuing staffing and budget policies that served the former agricultural area.
Geiger noted that while Winterhalter is president of the Silvana Firemans Association, Edmundson received the votes of 80 percent of the members.
Strotz said Winterhalter has been a steady and stable member of the district, who always show up for his shifts.
Hes been a prominent fireman, Strotz said.