The following is an open letter from the Kirkland Firefighters Union to the Kirkland City Council and is posted at iaff2545.org.
Kirkland has seen a rising trend in the incidences of fire over the last several years. Rarely does a week go by without a significant fire anymore. This last year these fires have twice resulted in civilian deaths. Deaths that by industry standards are considered preventable.
Unfortunately, the City of Kirkland has chosen a course of eliminating programs that help protect children and vulnerable populations from the dangers of fire. These cuts have included the elimination of programs to educate school age children, programs to support senior citizens and programs that ensure that the use of smoke detectors and other life safety behaviors are practiced and understood by all members of the community.
Council decisions, like the under-staffing of fire inspectors and the elimination of the fire department’s only certified public educator in 2010 has caused the Washington Survey and Rating Bureau to give the City of Kirkland the lowest rating of any eastside city for its efforts to prevent fires and to save lives. The City of Kirkland Fire Department was rated a moderate 4 for its ability to respond to fires but only an 8 by the insurance industry to prevent fires and mitigate loss. To understand this rating system a rating of 1 reflects exceptional quality and a rating of 10 is considered unprotected. This year we have seen these sometimes meaningless numbers turn into actual lives lost.
So today, as Council convenes for their annual retreat, we should ask them to make fire prevention and public education a priority again. If needed, our council members should look towards other eastside cities for leadership and re-install the same programs that children and seniors of other cities enjoy. Fire safety is a priority for firefighters and it should be for all of us.
Kirkland Professional Firefighters