The Bellingham Fire Department and Fire District 8 have worked together for decades through a county-wide mutual aid agreement. This agreement allowed each agency to call on the other in the event of a large scale incident that completely depleted one of the agencies resources.
In 2011 the two departments crafted a more comprehensive automatic-aid agreement for the northwest corner of the City and the urban growth area of the Fire District. This auto-aid agreement allowed for the closest units from either jurisdiction to respond to incidents without regard to City or District boundaries. This process also facilitated cooperative training between the departments and started a process to standardize training, staffing levels, and equipment between the two agencies.
In 2013 both departments had vacancies in their Fire Chief positions. The departments used this opportunity to form an inter-local agreement for joint management of the two agencies through one administration. This agreement resulted in Bellingham Fire Department chief level officers and office staff managing both organizations. As a result of this agreement and the combining of the BFD and District 8 staff, the organizations were able to gain efficiencies through the attrition of one of the Fire Chief positions and one half-time administrative support position. The savings from these two positions allowed for the hiring of two full-time firefighter positions in District 8 to provide more reliable staffing in the fire stations.
In 2016 the departments replaced the administrative-management inter-local agreement with a full contract for service. This contract for service allowed for the consolidation of all employees in both organizations and provided for a unified response model across all of the City and the Fire District. While the two organizations are functioning operationally as one, they are still two separate government bodies. This creates redundancy in the need to manage two separate budgets, two separate fleets, two separate sets of facilities, and two separate governance models (the Fire District Commissioners and the Mayor/City Council of Bellingham).