City of Oak Harbor, Whidbey Island, Washington, Whidbey Island's Premier Waterfront Community

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865 SE Barrington Drive
Oak Harbor, WA 98277
Phone: 360-279-4500
Fax: 360-279-4507
info@oakharbor.org

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Fire Chief

 

2017 Photo of Ray Merrill, OHFD Fire Chief

Oak Harbor City Council confirmed Ray Merrill as Fire Chief on March 20, 2012.

Chief Merrill's message from the 2016 Annual Report (full report is posted here):

People first: The City of Oak Harbor is fortunate to have all of our dedicated firefighters on staff. Your fire department is comprised of 11 career firefighters (including myself), one administrative assistant, and approximately 30 paid-on-call firefighters. This type of staffing is considered to be a combination department and has saved the City’s General Fund hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years. All of our members are dedicated, enthusiastic, and passionate about their involvement with the department. Later in this annual report you’ll ‘meet’ those members.
 
During 2016 two (2) recruit firefighters graduated from the 2016 Recruit Academy. Those members spent approximately 160 hours of classroom training and hands-on skills in order to become a firefighter. Upon graduation from the Academy they all became Nationally Certified as a Firefighter. But their training has not stopped and they continue to learn new skills, tasks and obtain required certifications. The department also had 1 lateral entry firefighter join the team.
 
Three (3) members attended the Washington State Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training. This is a 180 hour course on emergency medical care. All did very well with the training and all became Nationally Certified.
 
A number of our members attended specialized training at the Emergency Management Institute, a division of the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland. The courses attended provided education in advanced disaster preparedness, duties of government during disasters, and safety of our citizens. One of our members received the National Association of Fire Investigators Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator certification and one member received the National Fire Academy Managing Fire Officer Certification. 
 
During 2016 our department responded to 1,177 calls for assistance. The following pages of this report will detail some of those incidents. The department did respond to 62 fire calls including 12 confirmed structure fires. Those 12 structure fires resulted in $28,950.00 in property damages. None of the fires were total losses. It is estimated there was $636,950.00 in saved property value. 
 
As we have seen around the country violence in schools, malls, and places where people gather has increased. Our fire department has taken the approach of being prepared if this ever happens in Oak Harbor. We now have a High Risk Entry Team that actively trains with the Police Department and provides medical support in the event there is an emergency.  The words Active Shooter brings all forms of images and our goal is to provide the best possible medical care during an emergency.
 
During 2013 the Washington Surveying and Rating Bureau conducted a review of our service level. They provide the rating structure for insurance companies. The lower protection class rating, on a scale of 1 – 10 a department receives the better insurance rates home owners and commercial occupancies pay. Currently the City has a Class 4 rating – we are attempting to obtain a Class 3 rating. We missed that by a mere 151 points. There are a few items we can do to help lower our rating. Some have been implemented, others are more costly. Departmental staffing was a key issue, in order to help lower our deficiency points the department must hire additional firefighters in order to staff the proposed new fire station.
 
2017 and beyond; as growth has taken place and the City continues to grow the time is fast approaching that we consider a new fire station in the southwest quadrant of the City. During 2016 the Department contracted with Carletti Architects, Mount Vernon WA, to conduct a feasibility study to examine response times, travel distances, potential locations, and additional staffing requirements. The Department will be sharing that vision with the public, and hopefully begin the actual construction of a facility.  This will require a voter approved bond for the construction phase. The last time the Fire Department asked a voter approved bond was over 25 years ago. That bond was to construct our current fire station on East Whidbey Ave. That station (the only one in the City) was constructed in 1992 and the bond was retired eight years ago.
 
Along with the construction of the fire station we will look for creative ways to fully staff the station. This too plays a key role in our Surveying and Rating Bureau protection classification, as well as providing the best possible level of service to our community.  Later in the year we will begin public forums and informational meetings to obtain public input and direction.
 
So, 2017 is projected to be a busy and productive year.
 
In closing I would be remise in not thanking all of the members of this great fire department. They all do an outstanding job, they are here when needed. We have a great team – who are here to serve, here to protect, and here to keep safe the citizens and visitors of Oak Harbor.
 
Please feel free to contact me at 360-279-4701; rmerrill @ oakharbor.org or stop by the fire station should you have any questions, concerns, or input. We are here to serve the public.
 
Ray Merrill
Fire Chief  

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