Tacoma Fire Department asking for more funding as call volumes increase
Fire crews were busier than ever in Tacoma last year, with new numbers coming in about the call volumes that the Tacoma Fire Department (TFD) responded to. The TFD responded to nearly 50,000 calls, about 80% of which were for medical assistance, in 2022 alone.
According to TFD, in most years, calls for Emergency Medical Service increase an average of 3.1% per year, but call volumes increased by 14% this year. This has left the department scrambling for more funding to keep up with this high demand for medical services.
To keep up with this demand, the department is petitioning legislators and voters to allow a levy increase that would give the department $0.18 more per $1,000 of assessed property value than what they are currently receiving in EMS funding.
“EMS is the fire department’s most widely used service,” Fire Chief Tory Green said. “It’s important that we report back to you about how we are funded and how we use your tax dollars to provide high-quality emergency medical care. We are proud to serve our community, and we couldn’t do this critical work without their support.”
The fire department’s EMS program provides the highest level of emergency medical care, called Advanced Life Support (ALS), and is staffed with highly skilled firefighters/paramedics and firefighter/emergency medical technicians 24 hours a day.
This increase would bring the EMS funding, which is separate from the rest of the funding, to the voter-approved levy capped at $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
Voters last approved an EMS levy capped at $0.50 per $1,000 in 2006. Since then, the levy rate has dropped to $0.32 per $1,000.
In 2006, the population of Tacoma was 195,000 residents, this has increased over the past 16 years to 220,000 residents, all of whom need access to around-the-clock, lifesaving EMS services, the department says.
Over time, levy rates fall as property values rise to limit the fire department to a 1% increase per year or any voter-approved increase. The amount of money the fire department receives in EMS levy funding has not increased by the same percentage as property values, the department said.
Due to the increase, they are considering asking voters to restore the EMS levy “to $0.50 per $1,000 sometime this year.”