Fire Levy

Fire Levy Lid Lift

What we do

Whatcom County Fire District 4 contracts with North Whatcom Fire & Rescue (NWFR) for emergency services, covering 10,000 people over 40 square miles in the communities of Van Wyck, East Smith Road and Northshore. The contract with NWFR provides a higher level of emergency service at less cost for taxpayers than operating a standalone fire department.

What is the issue?

The contract was signed in 2011 and requires Whatcom 4 to pay 25 percent of NWFR’s operating costs. The contract expired in 2021 and NWFR will not grant another extension. In the past, NWFR residents have subsidized Whatcom 4 residents to the tune of $500,000. This is no longer feasible. The contract is set to end December 31, 2023.

Challenges to service

Since 2019, call volumes have increased 63 percent. More calls mean higher costs to provide service and Whatcom 4 does not collect enough revenue to pay for the service it provides. This is due to the district’s low fire levy rate and annexations by the city of Bellingham, both of which reduce Whatcom 4 revenue.

What are the numbers?

Whatcom 4 property owners pay $0.63 per $1,000 of assessed property value, while NWFR property owners pay $0.84.

What is Whatcom 4 proposing?

Whatcom 4 has considered all options and found the most cost-effective solution is to consider asking voters to increase the fire levy rate and continue to contract with NWFR for emergency services. The proposed rate is still being discussed by the Board of Fire Commissioners for Whatcom 4.

More expensive options include forming a standalone fire department and contracting with the city of Bellingham at a levy rate of $1.50 of $1,000.

What are the benefits?

The levy lid lift would maintain full-time 24-hour staffing at the Britton Loop Road Station 12. If the lid lift fails, the station would no longer be staffed 24 hours a day and residents would have to rely on mutual aid, which could increase response times up to 30 minutes or more.

Lid lift funding would also pay for long-deferred station repairs and replace a fire engine that is past its usable life and starting to fail on a more regular basis.

Fire Chief Jason Van Der Veen welcomes your questions at



Whatcom County Fire District 4 is struggling to maintain emergency services – March 14, 2023

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