Merger Exploration

Merger Exploration

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 CPFR exploring a merger with GFR and OVFR?

CPFR is exploring a merger with GFR and OVFR 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.

Isn’t OVFR already under contract with CPFR?

Yes, OVFR entered into a contract for services with CPFR in September 2023. Under the contract, OVFR remains a separate legal entity governed by its own Board of Fire Commissioners. However, all employees and day-to-day operations are solely managed by CPFR.

Will CPFR voters weigh in on the merger?

Since CPFR is the “host district,” only GFR and OVFR citizens will be voting.

Will CPFR resources be taken away from our community to serve GFR and OVFR?

No. Under a merger, CPFR will gain a larger pool of resources, including personnel, equipment, and expertise. This means that all communities within the merged district will benefit from improved response times, enhanced training opportunities, and better coordination during emergencies.

Will CPFR change its name?

Yes, if the merger is supported by GFR and OVFR voters, CPFR will undergo a rebranding process to create a new name, brand, and organizational identity that is representative of all the communities served.

What happens to our firefighters?

There are no changes for CPFR firefighters under a merger.

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 services area.

Additionally, CPFR is already taking steps to add additional staffed stations within its fire district. This includes reopening Station 66 (located at 128th St E and 98th Ave E) and purchasing the old North Puyallup station (located at 54th St E and Milwaukee Ave E) and Shaw Road station (located in the 10900 block of Shaw Road E) from the City of Puyallup.