This page provides an overview of regional fire protection service authorities in Washington State, including a list of existing authorities, sample regional fire protection service plans, and other documents.
A regional fire protection service authority (RFPSA) is a special purpose district created by the vote of the people residing in the proposed district (chapter 52.26 RCW). Its boundaries are coextensive with two or more adjacent fire protection jurisdictions (fire district, city, town, port district, municipal airport, or Indian tribe). It is a municipal corporation, an independent taxing authority within the meaning of article 7, section 1 of the state constitution, and a taxing district within the meaning of article 7, section 2 of the state constitution.
Regional fire protection service authorities were authorized in 2004. The legislature noted that the ability to respond to emergency situations by many of Washington state's fire protection jurisdictions had not kept up with the state's needs, particularly in urban regions and that efficiencies could be gained by regional fire protection service delivery.
The first step in forming the district is to create an RFPSA planning committee to draft a regional fire protection service authority plan. The planning committee is composed of three elected officials appointed by the governing bodies of each of the participating fire protection jurisdictions (RCW 52.26.030).
Upon receipt of the plan, the governing bodies of the fire protection jurisdictions may certify the plan to the ballot and put the plan before the voters for their approval or rejection. A single ballot measure may approve formation of the authority and the plan.
If a simple majority of votes cast are in favor, the district is declared organized by resolution of the county commissioners (RCW 52.26.060). However, if the plan authorizes the authority to impose fire benefit charges or 60% voter-approved taxes, the plan must be approved by a 60% supermajority (RCW 52.26.050).
Participating jurisdictions must review the plan every ten years (RCW 52.26.090(1)).
The governing board of the regional fire authority is determined by the plan and must consist of elected officials (RCW 52.26.080(2) and (3)). The statutory language is somewhat unclear, but it appears the board may consist of one of the following options (or a mix of both):
- Current elected officials from the participating fire protection jurisdictions, such as fire protection district commissioners or city councilmembers
- Regional fire commissioners elected by the voters of the regional fire authority
For instance, the board could consist of three elected regional fire commissioners, or two city councilmembers and three fire protection district commissioners from participating jurisdictions, or one city councilmember, one fire protection district commissioner, and three elected regional fire commissioners (or any number of other combinations).
The plan must establish the terms of office. The terms must be staggered, and no single term may exceed six years (RCW 52.26.080(3)(b)). If desired, the regional fire authority may establish commissioner districts for the purpose of determining commissioner eligibility and voting in primary elections (RCW 52.26.080(4)).
List of Regional Fire Protection Service Authorities
MRSC is currently aware of 10 regional fire protection service authorities in Washington. Nine are in Western Washington, but in 2015 the West Benton Regional Fire Authority became the first RFPSA in Eastern Washington.
- West Benton Fire & Rescue (established 2015) - West Benton Fire Authority consists of Prosser and Benton County Fire Protection District No. 3, replacing a former interlocal agreement. Earlier RFPSA attempt failed in 2010 general election.