Fire departments take action to fight increases in emergency calls

BENTON COUNTY, Wash. -- Benton County is growing rapidly, and according to our rural fire department’s statistics, the number of calls for emergency services is too.

Fire chiefs tell Action News they need to find the best balance between keeping response times down, and making your tax dollars go further.

"This morning we were on a call where there was just two of us dealing with a call, when ideally, we'd like there to be three or four of us,” said Benton County Fire District #4’s Lt. Aaron Meloy.

A spike in calls is adding more responsibility for everyone at the station.

“It's been non-stop moving,” said first year resident Adam Lamar.

Living and learning at the station as a resident, Lamar says this is a positive change. For him, more calls mean more opportunities to gain experience in the field.

“I was already accepted into nursing school and I just got right out of that and went right into here,” said Lamar.

Now Lamar has his schooling funded by the department. Between classes he puts the knowledge he's studying to the test as an on call employee with the station.

“The hands on experience is what you really need and this job will do that," he said.

The station says they really need another resident like Adam to keep up while keeping costs down.

Chief William Whealan explains that it costs up to $116,000 a year for a full time firefighter versus just $16,000 for a resident.

"You can see the difference that we are trying to extend those tax dollars to respond the number of emergency calls in our area," said Chief Whealan.

While numbers are rising, the time between them seems to be shrinking.

"We are starting to get back to back calls and sometimes even three in a row in a matter of two minutes," said Chief Whealan.

Chief Lonnie Click with Benton County Fire District #1 says they are experiencing similar issues.

"Right now we struggle in the Badger Canyon area we have a significant population out there," said Click.

Badger Canyon is one area District #1 is considering as they look at a possible ems levy in 2018.

It's only in the infancy stages, but the station is looking at a future with more ambulances and more staff as ways to help keep call times down in their area.

"We're looking at ways to make change to keep up," said Chief Click.

The change to becoming a resident is something Adam Lamar highly recommends for anyone with an interest in life saving.

"I love it,” said Lamar.

Fighting flames and danger with a passion and hunger to learn.

For more information on the residency program click here.

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