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Kittitas Fire District 7 Commissioner 3

6-year term; No salary. Per diem and reimbursement for some meeting expenses may be available to commissioners. A Fire District is responsible for fire response and containment and for emergency medical services. The commission sets the general policies of the district, which are implemented by the hired professional fire chief and fire district personnel.

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    Russ Hobbs

  • Justin Zipperer

Biographical Information

Why did you decide to run for this position?

What unique qualities do you bring to this job?

What are the three most urgent issues facing your fire district?

How would you handle them?

What part should your district play in your area’s environmental health?

How do you plan to assure the public that your staff has the proper level of training for their jobs?

Phone (509) 304-8195
Town where you live Cle Elum
Experience (300 characters max) I retired as a Fire Captain for Snohomish County Fire District 1, in 2005 having served for 30 years. I joined Kittitas Co. Fire District 7, in 2005. And was hired as the Fire Chief in 2007 and retired again in 2015. Currently I am an active member of the department, and serve as a Battalion Chief.
The Kittitas County Fire Commissioners determine needs of the community and the appropriate level of service, balanced by the tax dollars available. I know we are not prepared for the dynamic growth expected in the Cle Elum region. Congresswoman Kim Schrier recently predicted that Kittitas County’s population will double by 2030. Kittitas County was the fastest growing county in Washington state between 2019-2020 with a 3.4% growth. (Office of Financial Management).
With over 45+ years in the Fire Service, on both the west side in Snohomish County and east side in Kittitas County for the state of Washington, in all positions from Firefighter to Fire Chief, I feel uniquely qualified to serve as your County Commissioner for the Fire District of Kittitas County. When I began my career in Snohomish County in 1975, the Fire Department had 3 Fire stations. It now has 14 stations and is the 4th largest Fire Department in the state of Washington. I watched that growth and how it impacted the community. I watched 3+ acre parcels turn into subdivisions overnight. My Fire Station went from 700 calls a year, to 4000 in 30 years, 90% of those calls were for Emergency Medical Services (EMS). Look back 20 years ago and you will see the steady growth in Kittitas County. This will be another bedroom community for those who can work remotely.
Property Taxes went up considerably, Fire Levys can actually save you money on your Property Insurance; the better the fire protection class you live in, the lower your insurance premiums will be. Insurance companies base rates on ratings. The lower the rating the lower your insurance premiums. We can drop our rating by investing in newer equipment, training, and staffing.

Our one career staffed station is at the extreme end of the District, at Golf Course Road, the Liberty Fire station is at the opposite end of the Fire District 29 miles away. The career staffing should be centrally located to provide a more equitable services to all communities.

The Fire District is attempting to merge with Kittitas Valley Fire and Rescue. I believe it is much more important to merge with our neighboring Fire Departments in upper county, The benefits are enormous; a higher level of service, lower tax rate, quality training, additional paid staffing, purchasing, and working together in harmony.
The Commissioners have started an Equipment Replacement fund. We need to standardize our equipment to meet our needs for the next 20 years, and also look at long term funding options. I think it would be difficult in todays market to ask the voters to approve a tax increase.

It only makes since to move our career Firefighters to a more central location. The Fire District owns enough property at SR970 and Highway 10, to either remodel the existing building or purchase a prebuilt structure to house the crew.

I believe now is not the time to merge with Kittitas Valley Fire & Rescue. Kittitas Valley Fire & Rescue’s pay scale is much higher and they would have to hire another Deputy Chief to manage Kittitas County Fire District 7. There would be no real savings.
Today’s wild fires are creating significant environmental health issues. While we can not stop wild fires from occurring, we, as homeowners can take a more responsible role in firewising our homes and neighborhoods. Fire Departments that fight wild fires, have three priorities: number one is you, and secondly your home and property, and thirdly, putting out the fire. If you, as a homeowner, firewise your home, we can protect neighborhoods, instead of individual homes.
I have been the Fire Districts Training Officer for a number of years. The Department recently promoted a Captain as the Training Officer. The Training Officer and I work together to provide training to meet national standards. As a Department of Natural Resources (DNR) approved trainer, I also have the responsibility to train our wild land firefighters. We currently have 25 Volunteers who are trained Wild Land Firefighters and our entire career staff of nine. As a sideline, Wild Land Firefighters are required to do an initial 32 hour online training course, followed by a field day, to learn how to apply the lessons learned and finally an arduous physical endurance test. Every year they are required to attend a classroom refresher, field day and endurance test. Considering most are Volunteers, it is quite an accomplishment.
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