Regional Fire Agency

How to merge fire departments?  Here’s what Tumwater and Olympia are considering


Olympia and Tumwater are working through details of the planned merger of their fire departments.

During Tumwater’s city council meeting yesterday the members were briefed about governance options for the new Regional Fire Authority (RFA).   Both city councils are working to create a board structure.

A new rezoning committee will be created with a temporary structure of leadership until 2025 when the seats will be up for re-election.

Consultant Karen Reed told the council, “We have one slide on how other RFA’s have structured their governance boards. And again, there are 13 in the state.” They brought forward a selection of the RFA’s to pull as examples of governance boards of RFAs.

Each of the other RFAs have been created under structures that were approved by voters, Reed said. Examples of the structures are provided in the images included.

The proposed RFA will be able to restructure itself as it onboards its leaders and develops the organization.

According to Reed, none of the other RFAs appear to have used any limitations on how their governance can be changed before the first vote was issued.

The proposed board structure has a strong recommendation that it be seven board members in the governance. Most of the mentions of the structure had in the Ongoing Board Structure being options 3 or 4 in the included second slide.

In each of these options, the number of seats at the beginning of this board will be seven, with both officials appointed by each city and a portion being at-large, meaning that they are able to be voted in from either city. Each of the board members will have one vote.

In support of the options with seven members, Michael Althauser, Tumwater Mayor Pro Tem stated, “I think seven members makes a lot of sense. For a lot of reasons. You can have subcommittee work. Like you can have a subcommittee of three members. If you do that, then you're not forming a quorum. And that is just really helpful in terms of functionality and practicality.

“One of the things that's been a priority is really preserving…  the character of what makes our fire department,” Althauser emphasized. His preference appeared to be for option 3.

One of the concerns voiced by council member Leatta Dahlhoff is that Olympia’s population is 2.2 times that of Tumwater and how districting based accordingly would affect Tumwater’s representation.  “So when I look at equity and I look at equality, I am preferring at large for that pool, that representation of our community members. I prefer option four,” She reflected.

The subcommittee and consultants will bring the matter back to the council and present it later in the summer. 


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