After almost two years of investigation, we are disappointed to report that our worst concerns have been confirmed with the recently released results of the Washington State Auditors Fraud Investigation. During the investigation, the State Auditor looked at our records from 2008 to 2012, reviewed all of our bank transactions, reviewed expenditures by all personnel, and looked at our accounting practices. Through all of the investigation, the findings boil down to the inappropriate expenditures of one individual and needed improvement to our accounting practices.
Once the misappropriations were first suspected, the Commissioners immediately started an aggressive overhaul of our accounting practices. With the help from the State Auditor’s Office, Legal Counsel, Fire Chief, and a new District Clerk the Commissioners started changing the way our records were stored, the way District funds are accessed, and installed new accounting software that is compliant with State law. Long before the Auditors report was released, BCFD6 had already mitigated the deficiencies that had contributed to the misappropriated expenditures.
It is never easy to request an investigation of your own agency. We knew that bad results would tarnish our fire district’s name and erode the trust of our community. Regardless, the Commissioners and Chief’s firm resolve to ensure that the public funds are received and used for their intended purpose mandated that we request the audit and investigation. We strive to prove to our citizens they can trust us in everything we do.
We will continue to improve our records management and accounting. It is our hope that eventually, as an organization, we will regain the trust and approval of our citizens that we value so much.
The next step for BCFD6 is to work closely with the District Attorney and law enforcement to ensure that the misappropriated funds and associated costs are recouped for the District and that those funds are used, as intended, to protect the citizens of BCFD6.
BCFD6 needs your help. Currently, at the Sunheaven station, there is only one volunteer that lives within the response area. In the event of an emergency, responders will be coming from Paterson and Plymouth. BCFD6 has taken steps to improve coverage by signing an automatic aid agreement with Benton County Fire District 5 for primarily car wrecks and wildland fires. The medical and structure fire response must still come from Paterson or Plymouth which can take as long as 15 or 20 minutes during good weather and even longer with ice or snow.
Every few years, and when deemed necessary, the Insurance Services Office (ISO) will review the fire protection abilities in a given area. Your fire insurance rate depends on this rating and BCFD6 is due for a review. Several factors are considered when determining the rating; distance to a fire station, water supply for fire suppression, fire equipment available and firefighting force. An area can have a fire station with the best equipment and a fire hydrant on every corner, but without adequate responders ISO will consider the area “unprotected”. If this happens, fire insurance rates will go through the roof! This re-evaluation is not a matter of “if” we get reviewed, but “when”. Regardless if you have renters insurance or home owner insurance this will affect everyone. Once we’ve lost our ISO rating, it is extremely hard to get it back.
If you live in the Sunheaven area, please consider volunteering. We need the residents and corporations in this area to support our volunteer response. Help protect your family and your livelihood. Become a volunteer today. Download an application and stop by the station in Paterson to talk with the Chief.
VOLUNTEERS ARE NEEDED THROUGHOUT THE DISTRICT
WE NEED YOUR HELP. BCFD6 NEEDS VOLUNTEERS. There are more jobs in the fire service than spraying water and climbing ladders. While those jobs are important, equally important is the person supplying drinking water and food to tired crews, driving a water tender providing water for fire suppression, being a First Responder or Emergency Medical Technician and providing aid to the sick and injured. BCFD6 needs people to perform all of these tasks. People of all physical levels are needed. If you have not inquired about becoming a Volunteer due to age, weight, or physical disability please do not hesitate. Our community needs responders.
BCFD6 needs truck drivers that can drive heavy water tenders. These trucks are very large and require someone with experience to drive them. The Light Duty Tender Operator delivers water to the scene and stays with the vehicle to fill fire trucks as needed. Some minimal fire, driving and safety training is required but they are not required to actively fight fire. Our Light Duty EMS personnel provide basic lifesaving skills for standby during fires, accidents and other medical related events. The Light Duty EMS person does not have to fight fire. The Support personnel provide food, drinking water, and shelter to those that are fighting fire or working on an emergency scene. This position drives a smaller vehicle loaded with supplies to the emergency scene and may take blood pressures and pulses on the crews working. The activity level of this position is minimal but the job is vital.
Please, if you have ever wondered about becoming a member of your local fire department, inquire today! Stop by the Paterson station or stop the Chief and ask. We need responders. We need you to help protect yourself and your family. We are a VOLUNTEER department. WE NEED VOLUNTEERS!
The Board of Commissioners for Benton County Fire Protection District #6 has set the following meeting dates for the year 2014. All meetings are held at 7pm at the Paterson Fire Station, 48001 Prior Ave Paterson, Washington. Meetings are held on the second Monday of each month with two exceptions:
Benton County Fire District 6 has received a “matching funds” grant from the Washington Department of Natural Resources. The purpose of this grant is to improve wildland fire protection in rural communities. The grant funds will help replace an aging off-road firefighting UTV. The current Polaris Ranger that the District owns, was purchased used and has served brilliantly for the past two years. This vehicle transports six firefighters into the roughest areas of our fire district and carries water, tools and equipment. However, with its previous hard life and the strain we have put on it over the last few years, it has started to break down. Chief Watt applied for the DNR grant last November to replace the vehicle. BCFD6 just received confirmation of the successful grant application. This grant will allow BCFD6 to purchase a new vehicle for half the cost. BCFD6 looks forward to putting the new Polaris Ranger in service for the 2014 fire season.