Wash. Fire Districts Vie for EMS Levy to Reduce Response Times
Tri-City Herald (Kennewick, Wash.)
Aug. 02—Two rural Benton County fire districts are looking for your vote to close the gap on how long it takes to get fire and medical services to you.
Voters served by Benton County fire districts 1 and 4 received their ballots for the Aug. 7 primary. The vote on these two measures is final.
About 10 percent of the ballots have come back for District 1, and 12 percent in District 4.
For the 320-square-mile area served by District 1, the emergency medical services levy will mean the district can buy two ambulances and hire seven more people to man them.
If approved, annual property taxes would increase 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or $100 for a $200,000 home.
Benton County Fire District 4 has put forward a $7.5 million bond to build a new three-bay fire station. Money also would go toward more trucks.
The 52-square mile district serves 18,232 people, mostly in West Richland.
More people have moved into the city's western side, and farther away from the in the district's station.
That means longer people are waiting longer for first responders.
The measure would cost property owners about 28 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or $56 on a $200,000 home.
It's a personal issue for District 1 Chief Lonnie Click and District 4 Chief Bill Whealan.
Both have had family members rely on the ambulance—or used it themselves.
Click credits the quick work of the ambulances that responded to the 1997 crash on Interstate 82 in saving the lives of his ex-wife and daughter after the car they were in was hit by a drunk driver going the wrong way.
He said he wants to make sure he can provide that kind of fast service to his district.
Right now, the district is served by neighboring fire departments when an ambulance is needed. This can mean some people are waiting as long as 16 minutes to get an ambulance.
Whealan needed ambulance service personally. In 2015, he suffered a stroke and credits the quick reaction of the district's medics for saying his life.
"Adequate facilities and apparatus are just as important as firefighters and paramedics," Whealan said.