Weak bridges could create delays in emergency response

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KITSAP COUNTY — Hundreds of homeowners in rural Kitsap County could be facing longer-than-normal response times during emergencies. The problem is that scores of privately owned bridges might not be able support the weight of heavy fire trucks.

kitsap bridgesFirefighters worry about the stability of 94 private bridges and 44 culverts, and if they’re not absolutely sure those bridges can support trucks, they’re not going to risk one of those bridges collapsing beneath them.

“Our engines are 40,000 pounds and our tenders are 54,000 pounds,” said Lt. Matt Porter with Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue.

But resident Art McCallen worries about the estimated $1,000 to $2,000 cost of a bridge inspection, plus the expense of any needed repairs.

“My concern is for my family,” McCallen said. “In the event that we have a fire, God forbid we have a fire, am I going to have to watch my house burn?”

The district’s fire commissioners want to implement a policy in which there must be signage on all private bridges that clearly show weight limits. Without that signage, fire trucks won’t even try to cross. And the costs could skyrocket for rural homeowners.

“There’s a potential for their fire insurance to go up, there’s a potential for it to be canceled, there’s a potential for a mortgage issue with this,” Porter said.

Firefighters promise they will respond to every call, even if that means long hose runs or sending paramedics on foot, they’ll get the job done.

But McCallen worries he’s not getting a fair deal from the fire district.

“I’m paying my fair share of taxes,” said McCallen. “I should receive the benefits.”

Central Kitsap fire commissioners could adopt the policy as early as Sept. 9.

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3 comments

  • takebackamerica

    how about we do an audit on the the chief positions to see what portion of their pay can be scaled back or what positions are not mission essential and can be eliminated to cover the cost since the home and land owners are already paying a tremendous amount in taxes already? Bridge safety is a priority, but scare tactics such as higher fire insurance, delayed responses, or even no response at all, are a lame attempt to cushion the budget.

    • Robert

      You understand that the fire department only gets money from the property taxes correct? The fire ins, delayed response isn't an attempt to cushion the budget. It's a reality that the homeowner faces by owning a house with a private bridge. Its your job as a homeowner to maintain your property that includes whatever access you need to get to your home. If I built an 8 foot high wall around my property and my house burned down how would it be their fault? They will respond they just won't drive over a bridge that doesn't have a weight rating. Makes sense. If the home owner doesn't like it, they shouldn't have built their house on a piece of property that wasn't easy to access.

  • Ray

    Unfortunately the Fire Department is dealing with a double edge sword in this instance. On one hand, they respond to the call and focus on that call until it is mitigated, and on the other hand they still have to service the other 100,000 people that live within their Fire District. A new fire engine runs about 500,000 and nothing on them is cheap to fix. So if an engine is damaged because of an inadequate crossing it not only cost money that the Fire District didn't budget, but it takes that engine out of service for an extended period of time while it's getting repaired, therefore, it is not available to service other citizens that may need it. As Robert stated, it is the responsability of the homeowner to maintain their property, and it is not the mandate of the Fire District to ensure access to private property is in proper order.

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