Saturday, February 27, 2021

Cartoon misses the mark

| January 20, 2021 1:00 AM

I was surprised by the editorial cartoon in the Jan. 13 edition of the Pilot about the fire station network study recommendation.

Did you read and reflect on the exhaustive analytical report that was published and posted on the City of Whitefish Fire Department site? Perhaps before creating misperceptions that undermine the potential of improving community safety and progress you might exercise some responsibility for learning before messaging.

If you had read and understood the study, your cartoon would have gone a different direction, perhaps challenging the community leaders who have been reluctant over the years to invest in fire response capacity commensurate with our needs and growing footprint.

Reflect on the facts — there are over 1,400 structures in northwest Flathead County in areas within or adjacent to the rural Whitefish Fire District that are beyond 5 miles of a fire station which means those affected property owners have limited insurance provider options and are paying significantly higher premiums.

These properties are also more subject to insurance cancellation risk when, not if, carriers decide not to provide coverage to properties with ISO scores above 5. The study demonstrated that the insurance savings for these underserved properties would fund the network resource build out needed to support 94% of them. The average savings would be approximately $550 per structure.

The math did not assume that those within 5 miles of existing stations would provide any funding. In other words, not a tax grab without benefit which is what I assume you incorrectly assumed. In addition, a survey of over 200 residents across the study area revealed that almost 75% support adding fire station resources and locations (including those that were already within five miles of a station).

Northwest Flathead County is significantly “under stationed” versus the rest of the county; specifically, the area within the study currently has just three fire stations, the balance of Flathead County has 20 fire stations.

Rather than undermine the effort to improve public safety at no incremental cost to the average property owner that would be served by the proposed station additions, why not step up and be an advocate? A good start would be to learn more about the work which was done for the community at no cost by exceptional graduate students from a world class institution.

Joe Raudabaugh, Whitefish