Fire Levy Lid Lift

About Vashon Island Fire & Rescue

Vashon Island Fire & Rescue is the only all-hazards emergency services provider protecting Vashon and Maury Islands. In 2022, the district responded to 1,630 emergency calls.

Currently, 13 career firefighter/EMTs, augmented by our dedicated volunteers, provide a full spectrum of fire and life safety response from one staffed fire station. During any given 24-hour period, three to four career firefighter/EMTs are on duty to respond to emergency calls from the fire district’s 11,600 residents. The district experiences a large number of simultaneous calls for emergency services. In 2022, over 17% of our emergency calls (275 occasions) occurred simultaneously and to-date we have received over 85 simultaneous calls for emergency services.  

In addition to providing emergency services, Vashon Island Fire & Rescue is focused on fostering the relationship between the fire district and the community through public outreach and prevention activities.


What’s on my election ballot?

Vashon Island Fire & Rescue is asking voters to restore its regular fire levy to $1.50 per $1,000 assessed valuation. This is called a levy lid lift. The current fire levy has fallen to $1.12 per $1,000 assessed value. The last time the fire district asked voters to restore the regular fire levy was in 2017.

The levy lid lift will be listed as Proposition 1 on your ballot.

If passed, the levy lid lift will be limited to six years beginning in 2024 and concluding 2029. During the six-year period the annual limit factor will be 6%. The “limit factor” is a percentage limitation on revenue growth from year-to-year. State law requires that the percentage limitation on growth (limit factor) be no more than 1% without a vote of the people (a levy lid lift). As an example, if a taxing district had $5,000,000 in tax revenue in 2023, it would be limited to only $50,000 in increased tax revenue in 2024 due to the 1% limit factor. With a majority vote of the people, that number would increase to $300,000 when using a 6% limit factor, rather than $50,000 using a 1% limit factor.

Have voters approved a fire levy lid lift in the past?

The regular fire levy is not a new tax. Voters restored the regular fire levy to $1.50 per $1,000 assessed value in November 2017.

Why do fire levies drop?

As property values increase, the regular fire levy rate is reduced according to the limit factor, which results in the tax levy rate being lowered from its previously authorized amount. This is called rate compression. As a result of the general, state-mandated limit factor of 1%, Fire districts are allowed a 1% revenue increase per year, not including new construction. However, that 1% increase very rarely keeps up with increased costs to deliver emergency services.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA region, has increased by 18.8% over the past five years (2018-2022). The cost of delivering timely professional emergency services on Vashon has not kept pace with the CPI.

Why is Vashon Island Fire & Rescue asking for this levy?

Vashon Island Fire & Rescue recently completed a strategic planning process. During the process, community participants and fire district members identified the following areas as weaknesses of the fire district:

  • Unstaffed Fire Stations with poor proximity to some parts of the Island
  • Not enough/insufficient staffing levels
  • Professional Development and Required Training
  • Aged fleet and Lack of resources

Additionally, community participants and fire district members identified areas of opportunity for the fire district. Opportunities included recruiting more members to the fire district, modernizing and developing a more effective apparatus fleet, addressing unstaffed and out of service fire stations, and expanding fire district services to best serve the community.

Vashon Island Fire & Rescue does not have adequate staffing or resources to fix the challenges or capitalize on the opportunities identified within the strategic plan. In addition, current staffing levels do not meet state or nationally recognized industry safety standards.

For any given 24-hour period, only three to four firefighters/EMTs cross-staff an ambulance, an engine, and other specialized response vehicles out of one staffed station. The typical off-island hospital transport takes over three hours, leaving one responder left on the island to respond to emergencies. In 2022, Vashon Island Fire & Rescue received 275 simultaneous emergency calls, at times leaving only one staffed responder for the next call, and ultimately leaving no one available to respond to a third emergency call.

Additional challenges include:

  • Closest mutual aid fire and emergency medical assistance is over one hour away
  • Not meeting minimum response standards set forth by the National Fire Protection Association
  • which directly impact the outcomes of incidents.
  • Not meeting WA Administrative Code for 2 firefighters-in & 2 firefighters-out during fire
  • suppression placing the public and our firefighters at further risk.
  • Aging response vehicles – VIFR fire engines are on average 19.5 years–the oldest in King
  • County.
  • Aging, unstaffed and out- of- service fire stations
  • Meeting the current and future needs of the community

Click here to view the full Vashon Island Fire & Rescue strategic plan.

What will this cost?

If approved by voters, the levy lid lift will restore the regular fire levy to $1.50 per $1,000 assessed value and would be an additional $0.38 per $1,000 assessed value compared to 2023. This equates to approximately $21.70 more per month for the owner of a $700,000 home. 

Home Value2023
($1.12 per $1,000 AV)
($1.50 per $1,000 AV)
Monthly Difference
Home valued at $500,000$563.96$750.00$15.50
Home valued at $600,000$676.76$900.00$18.60
Home valued at $700,000$789.55$1,050.00$21.70
Home valued at $800,000$902.34$1,200.00$24.80
Home valued at $900,000$1,015.13$1,350.00$27.91
Home valued at $1,000,000$1,127.93$1,500.00$31.01

What will you do with the additional revenue?

1. Increase staffing to a minimum of six full-time firefighter/EMT’s per 24-hour shift. This would guarantee two firefighter/EMTs on an engine and two firefighter/EMTs on an aid car at the Bank Road Station, and two firefighter/EMTs cross-staffed at the Burton Station. 

Staffing the Burton Station will decrease response times to the Burton, south to Tahlequah, east to Dockton, and to the surrounding areas. In addition, having full-time firefighters/EMTs at the Burton Station will ensure that our Washington Surveying and Rating Bureau (WSRB) Fire Protection rating remains at a property class protection 5. Insurance companies use WSRB ratings to calculate homeowners’ insurance rates. If the Burton Station remains unstaffed, Vashon Island Fire & Rescue’s WSRB rating will fall to a 9, which will result in the worst case scenario of doubling of insurance premiums for residential and commercial properties in the surrounding Burton area and south to Tahlequah. 

The table below shows the monthly and annual impact to homeowners insurance premiums of homes valued at $500,000, $750,000 and $1,000,000, as well as, the monthly and annual levy lid lift cost to the same assessed property. The insurance quotes are from national insurance companies and were provided by regional insurance brokers.

Home ValueWSRB Protection
Class Rating
Annual Homeowners InsuranceIncrease
(Levy approved & Burton station staffed)
PC 5$1,609$15.50/month
(Levy not approved & Burton station unstaffed)
PC 9$2,924109.58/month
(Levy approved & Burton station staffed)
PC 5$2,266$22.50/month
(Levy not approved & Burton station unstaffed)
PC 9$4,125$154.92/month
(Levy approved & Burton station staffed)
PC 5$3,095$31.01/month
(Levy not approved & Burton station unstaffed)
PC 9$5,645$212.50/month

2. Replace six emergency response vehicles over six years. National standards recommend that frontline response vehicles are replaced every 15 years, put in reserve for five years, and moved out of service after 20 years. The average age of Vashon Island Fire & Rescue’s fleet is 19.5 years making it the oldest in King County. 

Apparatus TypeQuantityYears in Service
Frontline Engine223
Water Tender123
Rescue Truck127
Brush Truck126
Aid Car211 & 14

3. Invest in fire stations and training facilities. Vashon Island Fire & Rescue currently has four stations; one 24/7 staffed station, two unstaffed stations, and one out of service station. All of Vashon Island Fire & Rescue’s stations lack earthquake resistance, firefighter cancer protections, and firefighter decontamination facilities. 

What happens if the fire levy lid lift does not pass?

If voters do not pass the levy lid lift during the August 2023 election, the regular fire levy will fall (due to further rate compression) to a level that would impact our ability to improve delivery of emergency services. The decrease in funding will restrict Vashon Island Fire & Rescue’s ability to provide safe and effective staffing and, decrease response times and limit the district’s ability to replace the oldest fleet of response vehicles in King County, and limit the district’s ability to repair fire stations in deteriorating conditions. 

In addition, failure to pass the levy lid lift would not allow Vashon Island Fire & Rescues to complete initiatives outlined in the 2023-2029 Community-Based Fire and Emergency Medical Services Strategic Plan, which are in-place to improve the safety of Vashon Island residents, businesses, and visitors. 

Could recruiting additional volunteers improve staffing levels?

Vashon Island Fire & Rescue has a rich history of dedicated volunteer firefighters protecting the island – a history that we are very proud of. As the population grows, industry standards evolve, and demand for emergency services increases, our community needs a staffing model that can be sustained well into the future. 

Vashon Island Fire & Rescue has been lucky to have dedicated volunteers, however, according to a National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) based on demographics and population, a community’s age profile can indicate potential volunteer firefighter recruitment problems ahead.

According to national standards and demographic data, volunteer firefighters are typically between the ages of 20 and 49. There are 2,796 people on Vashon Island between the ages of 20 and 49 (male and female). Based on the national trend and the number of people on the island that typically volunteer as firefighters, it is more reasonable for Vashon Island Fire & Rescue to expect to attract a total cadre of 16 volunteers based on its demographics. By this standard, Vashon Island Fire & Rescue is already more successful with recruiting volunteers than the national average since there are currently more than 16 volunteer EMTs, firefighters and support members on the rolls of Vashon Island Fire & Rescue. Our volunteers are all extremely dedicated. However, many district volunteers work off-island and are not available 24/7 to meet our service needs. 

We are eager to achieve a staffing model that is inclusive of both career and volunteer firefighters and can provide safe, sustainable, and efficient emergency services to our citizens. 

What is the different between ALS and BLS calls? And what services does King County Medic One provide?

Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Life Support (ALS) are different levels of medical care provided during emergencies. Here’s a simplified breakdown of each level of care. 

Basic Life Support (BLS):

  • BLS focuses on providing immediate care to stabilize a patient’s condition.
  • BLS providers are trained in basic techniques such as First aid, airway management, CPR, and bleeding control.
  • BLS providers are equipped with basic medical equipment such as automated external defibrillators (AEDs), basic airway management devices, and first aid supplies.
  • All Vashon Island Firefighters and EMTs are trained to the basic life support level. 

Advanced Life Support (ALS):

  • ALS providers are trained in more advanced techniques such as advanced airway management, intravenous (IV) medication administration, cardiac monitoring, and interpretation of electrocardiograms (ECGs).
  • ALS providers are equipped with additional medical equipment such as advanced airway devices, cardiac monitors, IV supplies, and medications.
  • ALS providers can perform more invasive procedures such as intubation, defibrillation, administration of advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) protocols, and medication therapy.

King County Medic One serves the entire King County, including Vashon Island. King County Medic One solely responds to ALS emergencies. For each 24-hour shift, there are two paramedics from King County Medic One dedicated to responding to ALS emergencies on Vashon and Maury Island from one paramedic unit. 

Where can I find more information?

Fire Chief Matt Vinci welcomes your questions at In addition, you may also request a presentation from Chief Vinci for your community group by calling 206-463-2405.

Documents & Resources