ENUMCLAW, Washington (STPNS) -- Ballots should be received this week by all area voters impacted by a plan to merge Fire District 17 into neighboring District 44.

The move impacts residents just north of Enumclaw and in the Black Diamond area.

District 44 Chief Greg Smith said the move is simply a way to continue current operation in a more streamlined manner. There would be no additional financial impact to any property owner, he added.

Ballots have been issued by King County?s Election Department and must be postmarked by May 20.

Simply, the ballot asks voters in King County Fire District 17 if they should be merged into District 44, also known as Mountain View Fire and Rescue.

Maintaining separate districts ?made perfect sense 50 years ago when these fire districts were first formed,? Smith said. ?The needs are different now that District 17 owns no fire stations, no aid vehicles and has no personnel.?

District 44 has operated both districts as a single unit since the signing of an interlocal agreement in April 2006.

Fire District 17 has not operated independently for more than 10 years, when the city of Black Diamond annexed Lake Sawyer and assumed operation of the department. Later, Black Diamond contracted with District 44, allowing the larger district to provide services to both the city and residents of District 17.

?The merger of fire districts in King County has become commonplace as a result of city annexations reducing the size of district and the overall growth in demand for emergency services,? Smith said.

A few years ago, he noted, there were 50 independent fire districts in King County. today, there are 26.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com.