Letter to the Editor

Letter from KPFD Volunteers


It is important for the public to understand why Key Peninsula volunteer firefighters have been outspoken at recent board of commissioner meetings. Volunteers are all citizens who live on the Key Peninsula and are tax-paying residents. We are concerned that the board approved the spending of monies without paying attention to what it was being spent on and that this lack of attention has negatively affected Fire District 16.

The purchase of the commercial and residential properties in Key Center was well underway and planned before the last levy vote in August. We feel that this goal should have been openly shared with the public. Instead, the board and the past fire chief stated that the property purchase was being “explored.” Since the purchase, the board has not demonstrated full understanding, awareness or knowledge regarding the property purchase, lack of inspections and lack of disclosure statements, among other items. They allowed the past administration carte blanche and it appears turned a blind eye. Currently the district is paying the price, quite literally, in the form of roof leakage repairs and overage costs due to this lack of attention.

We want the public to know that the previous administration was not vested in the volunteer program. In fact, decisions made set the corps up for failure and has had a negative impact on response capability for members. A conscious decision was made in November 2021 by administrators not to fund budget requests for a 2022 Volunteer Academy to help with attrition, the purchase of personal protection equipment specific to powered air purifying respirator devices — although it was promised — or scanners to help with communication. In addition, over the past three years the volunteer corps was not actively included in district training evolutions.

During the pandemic your volunteers were able to run two successful volunteer academies and continued training to be the best that they could be. While the world relied on their first responders, your volunteers were not afforded the same personal protective equipment as the career staff. Yet the response expectations were the same.

Your fire district was founded by volunteers and your current volunteer corps is struggling now because of decisions made over the last three years. Your volunteer battalion is 14 strong and consists of firefighters, EMTs, tender operators and chaplains. There is nothing we love more than serving our community and supporting our fire department and career firefighters. We take pride in being one of the best volunteer programs in the county. We are also proud that your local volunteers get hired to be career firefighters — their roots are and always will be Key Peninsula. We are proud that from our line of career firefighters, 13 were hired from our own volunteer ranks.

We are also very hopeful and look forward to our new chief, Nick Swinhart, and the direction he takes the district. What we want, however, is for our board of fire commissioners to be accountable for the positions they were elected to and to fulfill their fiscal responsibility to the KP community. We are fearful that their lack of fiscal attention, transparency and a blind eye to the spending of the past administration has put Fire District 16 in a position that is beyond what our tax base can support

The Key Peninsula Volunteer Fire Firefighter Association