Exploring the Merger of Our Fire Districts

Pierce County fire districts have a long, successful history of working together to better serve our communities. In that spirit, Central Pierce Fire & Rescue (CPFR), Graham Fire & Rescue (GFR), and Orting Valley Fire & Rescue (OVFR) — are exploring a merger to enhance service delivery.

This decision follows extensive collaboration and meetings focused on improving efficiency, reducing costs, and improving quality of service. These discussions led to the realization that our communities could be better served if we unite as one organization.

Your Fire Districts: Better Together

The boards of CPFR, GFR, and OVFR have formally endorsed exploring a merger to better serve our communities. Potential benefits include:

  • Faster response times and better coordination during emergencies.
  • Efficient resource management, reducing redundancies in equipment and ensuring that resources are distributed where they are needed most.
  • Economies of scale, reducing overall costs for the fire districts.
  • Enhanced adaptability to changes in population growth, demographics, and service demands over time. 

What is the Merger Process?

CPFR is the largest district of the three in terms of population, staffing, and number of fire stations, currently provides emergency services to OVFR by contract and shares a Fire Chief with GFR. Additionally, CPFR and GFR share a major border and work collaboratively to respond to emergencies more effectively. Therefore, the Commissioners from the three districts determined that rather than create an entirely new fire district, such as a regional fire authority, it would be simplest and most cost-effective for OVFR and GFR to each ask their voters for approval to merge into CPFR and rebrand with a new name and identity that embodies the three organizations.

Following OVFR and GFR adopting resolutions asking CPFR to consider a merger, the CPFR Board of Fire Commissioners adopted resolutions accepting the merger petitions and the three agencies began the legal steps for placing a merger measure on the ballot in 2025.

These steps include:

  • Issuing SEPA Threshold Determinations of Non-Significance
  • Filing a Notice of Intent with the Pierce County Boundary Review Board
  • Adopting resolutions to place the merger on the ballot

The date for when the merger will appear on the ballot hasn’t been confirmed but is anticipated to occur in 2025.

Voters will ultimately decide. A simple majority of the voters of OVFR is required to approve its merger with CPFR.  Similarly, a simple majority of the voters of GFR is required to approve its merger with CPFR.  As the “host” agency for the mergers, CPFR voters do not vote.

Continued Collaboration

By combining resources, expertise, and coordinating efforts, the fire districts can create more efficient and effective emergency response. The merger can enhance our ability to respond promptly to emergencies, optimize resource allocation, and provide a higher level of safety and service to the communities we serve.

Collaboration isn’t new. The three fire districts are already engaging in coordinated efforts to enhance operations:

  • Regional training efforts (known as the Pierce County Fire Training Consortium)
  • Shared information technology services
  • Shared communications, outreach, and education programs
  • Shared Battalion Chief (i.e. Battalion 91)
  • Shared CARES (community assistance, referrals, and education service) program
  • Closest forces response (utilization of the closest available resource regardless of which agency the resource belongs to and regardless of which agency has protection responsibility)

These shared programs have proven the efficiencies that come along with combining resources and confirm that our fire districts can provide better service delivery when we work together.

If the merger is approved, CPFR, GFR, and OVFR will unite to form a fire district with a new name and organizational identity representative of all the communities it serves.

One Fire Chief, One Mission

Fire Chief Dustin Morrow will lead the merger effort for all three fire districts. The agencies agreed to this approach to create unity as we move forward through the merger exploration process.

  • Chief Morrow has served as the Fire Chief for OVFR since September 1, 2023, when the contract for services between CPFR and OVFR went into effect.
  • Chief Morrow has served as the Fire Chief for GFR since March 2024, when the GFR Board of Fire Commissioners approved an administrative addendum which listed him as the Fire Chief for the fire district.

Having one Fire Chief gives the fire districts a unique opportunity to move forward with one mission; working together to better serve you.

We are still in the early phases of exploring a merger between the three fire districts. This page will continue to be updated as we learn more. Please check back regularly!

FAQs


Why is GFR exploring a merger with CPFR?

GFR is exploring a merger with CPFR to enhance efficiency, improve service delivery, and ensure cost-effective emergency response capabilities. By combining resources, we aim to provide better coverage, response times, and training and professional development opportunities for our firefighters.         

Will voters weigh in on the merger?

Yes. The merger will likely appear on the ballot in 2025.

Will GFR change its name?

Yes, if the merger is approved, the fire districts have agreed to jointly create a new name, brand, and organizational identity for the combined fire district.

What happens to our firefighters?

If the merger is approved, all GFR firefighters will integrate into the CPFR workforce. No firefighters or administrative personnel will lose their jobs or experience a reduction in pay or benefits.

The merger can provide more opportunities for professional development, training, and specialized assignments, such as serving on special operations teams (water rescue team, technical rescue team, wildland strike team, etc.).

Will my fire station be closed?

No, our fire stations are strategically located to provide the most effective emergency response to our community. In fact, as the population in our district grows, there may be a need to add additional resources in our service area.

Additionally, GFR is in the process of purchasing land to build a new Station 92 in the Kapowsin area, which is currently served by a respond-from-home volunteer station.