Local

Bellingham sees ‘huge safety concern’ as 2 fire stations operate without engines for over a day

BELLINGHAM, Wash. — Fire engines are missing in action from two Bellingham fire stations, posing a big risk to public safety for days.

The Bellingham/Whatcom County Firefighters Union told KIRO 7 that Fire Station 6 is the busiest fire station in the area.

“We provide fire and EMS services for the entire city of Bellingham. So when you call 911, and if it’s not a law enforcement issue, we’re probably going,” said Hunter Elliot, Vice President of IAFF Local 106.

During the weekend, Fire Station 6 and 31 had to operate without engines, leaving parts of the city vulnerable to any large fires or emergencies. Both were left without a fire engine for more than 24 hours.

“When you pull two engines out of the mix, that’s a huge safety concern, not only for the public, but it’s also a safety concern for firefighters,” said Elliot.

The Bellingham Fire Department has been down two fire engines since December 1. Elliot said the union immediately put out a notice to the public about the shortfall.

“They don’t currently have any technicians that can work on our fire engine pumps. So we outsource that now,” he said.

He said the engines are under maintenance but told us the problem has been around for decades.

“We’ve seen similar staffing and resource numbers. Since kind of like the late 70s, they haven’t changed all that much,” Elliot explained. “You’re relying on other fire engines to come from other places in the city that may be tied up on other calls.”

The department had to pull an engine from another local station, as well as a ladder truck, which has limited capabilities.

Elliot said it comes down to a lack of staffing and funding to keep up with demand.

“Motor vehicle accidents, structure fires, that kind of stuff, we have no resource to go to. On the medical calls, I know that they did reduce the service,” he explained.

Fire station 6 is the newest Bellingham location and it opened in 2002. With the significant growth of the city over the last 20 years, Elliot believes it’s time for another.

“Population growth and needs for our fire and EMS services throughout the city have grown, we desperately need another fire station on the north end of town.”

Elliot told us the two fire engines that went under maintenance are expected to be back in action on Wednesday.

He encourages the community to reach out to local leaders to restore the fire department to full service.