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SE Thurston Fire Chief Mark King – An Interview

Chief Mark King presents Lee McGill the Citizen Life Saver Award, for his heroic acts
saving neighbor Vernon Jacob Horst in a house fire the evening of February 3, 2015.
Photo courtesy: SE Thurston Fire Authority

Yelm Community Blog Interview – SE Thurston Fire Chief King

Following the public interest and huge outpouring of support for the Yelm Community Blog Interview with Police Chief Todd Stancil last January, I requested to sit down with SE Thurston Fire Authority Chief Mark King to ask about his department in an effort to inform Yelm Community Blog readers and the public.

– I began by asking Chief King about his background.

Chief King graduated from the Fire Academy in 1991. He obtained his initial experiences working for a private ambulance service from 1992-1998. In 1998, King started service in this area with Southeast Thurston Fire. At that time, Yelm was an all-volunteer firehouse. King was the first career person hired as a firefighter, working for Chief Rita Hutcheson (now retired). He added that he would like to finish his career in Yelm, saying “there are too many good things to come and opportunities I That don’t want to miss.”

– What is your level of staffing and how have you managed the challenges your department has faced?

“We currently operate with 19 Line Firefighters/EMTs, 1 Fire Chief, 1 office manager, 1 mechanic/facilities maintenance, and 1 part-time IT position.
As 90% of the department’s revenue is directly related to assessed property values, budget cuts were required as a result of the 2008-2009 economic meltdown which led to a consecutive decline lower property tax rates.
At the same time, the Fire Authority with the City of Yelm was being formed, which would have increased revenues to the department. However revenue dropped 17.5% from 2010-2013.

In 2011 as an example, we had 4 Fire Chiefs and 3 office administrators. Then, budget cuts forced the elimination of all but one in each area, and are not slated to be refilled.”

– What additional challenges do you and your team face, not budget related?

“Call volumes keep climbing, yet revenues have not.”

– What are your standards your department strives in providing quality service?

“Service standards are set from nationally recognized criteria, including the National Heart Assn.

Our goal for a high level of service involves:
* number of people/staffing to have on scene,
* response time, which is measured annually to see where our service standards are met and to make adjustments if not.

If the Fire Authority had not been passed by the voters, we would be in a far worst place budget wise. I have spent the last several years working within the department to do things more efficiently to maintain a high level of service.”

– Moving forward what do you envision for the future from your department’s point of view?

“We will remain conservative in our goals and budgeting.
We have little capacity in reserve, yet we are working with what we have so we don’t have to go to the voters until perhaps 2017-2018.

Fire Service Departments in Washington State have numerous ways to save through consolidation yet still provide quality service to constituents.”

– What would you like the community to know that I have not asked?

“We have such positive feedback from the community in cards, letters, e-mails and phone calls we receive commenting on the friendliness and quality of our staff.
That makes me very proud of our team.”

Stop in and visit:
S.E. Thurston Fire Authority
Mark King, Chief
Johnathan A. Sprouffske, Commission Chair
709 Mill Road SE
P.O. Box 777
Yelm, WA 98597
Phone: (360) 458-2799, non-emergency calls

Yelm Police Department’s Reserve Officer Don Wilson receiving “2014 Reserve Officer of the Year” award. (left) Mayor Ron Harding, (center) Reserve Officer Don Wilson, (right) Police Chief Todd Stancil. Photo credit: Washington Media Services.

“Aside from working with the Yelm Police Department, Reserve Officer Don Wilson works full-time with South East Thurston Fire Authority (covering the areas of Yelm, Rainier, and their surrounding unincorporated areas). Wilson has been employed with the fire department since 1993 and currently holds the position of Captain. It is estimated that he’s been involved with around 20,000 calls between his duties as a fire fighter and reserve police officer.

Congratulations to Reserve Officer Don Wilson on your award as the ‘2014 Reserve Officer of the Year!'”
Read more

Posted by Steve on April 15, 2015 at 6:28 am | Permalink

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One comment

  1. Excellent article, Steve. Thanks for taking the time to highlight a very humble public servant. Having had the opportunity to have worked with Mark for 10 years, I truly understand the challenges he has faced in providing quality service to our community. It is not a simple task. Every decision he makes is made in the best interest of the community he serves. Knowing he was there to take the department forward made my retirement decision simple. S.E. Thurston Fire Authority and our community are fortunate to have a forward thinking leader such as Mark King at the helm.

    Comment by Rita Hutcheson on April 16, 2015 at 1:19 pm

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