Vashon Island Fire and Rescue
Vashon Island Fire and Rescue

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2017 323 1186
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Dec 09, 2018

An Open Letter to Washington State Ferries & Our Community
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By Administration Raechel Ehlers
November 5, 2018

Re: The Proposed Ferry Schedule Changes

As one watches ambulances and fire trucks move about the community it is easy to overlook a significant participant in
the ever growing number of our calls; the Washington State Ferry System. Emergency transportation off the Island has
grown approximately 300% over the last thirteen years; ferries are essential components of emergency medical
transports to area hospitals and our dependence on them grows daily. Vashon Island Fire and Rescue regularly, often
multiple times a day, will call upon the ferry system to assist us in providing time sensitive transport of sick and injured
patients to surrounding emergency rooms and hospitals.

As our only ‘highway’ on or off the Island, the engagement of ferries is foundational to our operations. Providing
emergency care on the Island is much more complicated than just getting a patient to an emergency room. The system
of holding ferries for emergency ambulance traffic works well and we are grateful for it. However, beyond catching the
next boat, whenever it might be, a system for the timely return of an ambulance back to the Island does not exist. While
ambulances are on the mainland, Vashon’s Fire District continues to be dispatched. In fact, simultaneous calls are
growing, making up approximately 15% of our call volume, with this year’s total already exceeding all of last year’s by
11%. With limited staff and only four ambulances the speed of their return to the Island directly impacts our ability to
safeguard the community.

Further contributing to the ferry schedules impact on the Fire District, almost all our first responders live or work off
Island. We appreciate that career staff can preplan their arrival to work, however having our larger corps of volunteer
responders returning home from work or travels waiting one, two, three or four hours to get back on the Island is an
unnecessary and unrecognized risk. Their ferry commute is impactful of getting first responders in fire trucks and
ambulances. For the growing demand upon us and our essential engagement with the Ferry System we believe a
schedule that puts more boats at the Fauntleroy and Vashon docks more regularly throughout the day a necessity. The
new draft schedule does not accomplish that goal. Proposed waits between departures as long as sixty-five minutes,
plus the crossing time, I fear will become perilous for the Fire District specifically and the community generally.
As the new boat schedule for the Triangle Route is crafted, we urge the State to fully explore the possibilities of a full time
“pendulum” route. We understand that a full time pendulum could provide service at all three dock locations all day and
into the evening on a regularly defined, equally spaced basis. Aside from keeping the ‘draw bridge’ to our neighboring
communities open, a greater number of closely and evenly planned departures and arrivals will strengthen our capability to
save life and property.

We also believe all three of the Triangle Route communities will quickly reach consensus in support of this solution.
Tell any commuter they can depend on a ferry every 30 to 35 minutes and they will be very pleased. Southworth and
Vashon would have many more sailings and they would be much more frequent. Fauntleroy residents would be
relieved by a substantial reduction in congestion and the number of idling vehicles waiting outside their homes and
alongside Fauntleroy Way Southwest & Lincoln Park.
We would be happy to assist the Washington State Ferry System in further studying full time pendulum options and
expanding upon their support of our emergency services mission on Vashon Island.
Sincerely yours,
Charles H. Krimmert, Fire Chief
Vashon Island Fire & Rescue

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Comment Comment 1 Comment(s)

Nancy Brenner November 07, 2018 at 8:31 AM
Thank you for this. Today, November 9, is the final day for comments.

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