Two fire districts are about to sign an agreement that should improve protection and reduce insurance rates for many property owners around Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Kootenai Fire District No. 1 expects to sign the mutual aid agreement in mid-February with the East Side Fire Protection District.
The Kootenai district already has agreements with the other 11 fire districts in Kootenai County, said District No. 1 chief Ron Sanpert. That means the firefighters can respond to calls on one another’s turf.
Cooperation with the East Side District will include joint operation of a new fire station at Arrow Point.
The station, owned by District No. 1, will be staffed by East Side volunteers and equipped with an East Side fire engine.
“We’ll be able to respond much faster,” said Bob Tjossem, chairman of the East Side Fire District board. “This brings most (fire district) members within five miles of a station, meaning their insurance rates will be better.”
The East Side district is only four years old. Based at Carlin Bay, it has two engines and one fireboat. Tjossem said the East Side district will eventually sign mutual aid agreements with other adjoining districts, such as St. Maries and Worley.
County Commissioner Dick Panabaker on Thursday praised increased cooperation among the districts.
“We’re seeing things happen that will not only make service better, but will save us some money,” he said.
The quality of fire protection was an issue at a Thursday commission hearing, at which Squaw Bay cabin owner Arnold “Red” Halpern asked that his property be deannexed from the East Side District.
Halpern objected to paying taxes to support the fire district when, he said, its fireboat is too far away.
“I don’t think they can get to my cabin in time to do any good,” he said.
Halpern said fire trucks don’t have adequate access to the cabin; fire district officials disagreed.
Property owners can join the fire district, but need commission approval to leave it. Panabaker did not want to exempt Halpern.
“It’s a bad precedent,” he said.
Commissioner Ron Rankin sided with Halpern. Commission Chairman Dick Compton said the board would announce a decision on Tuesday.