WALLA WALLA, Washington – The concept of having a Rural Fire Authority is catching fire between the fire departments Walla Walla County and the cities of College Place and Walla Walla.
“We met last week with the paid and volunteer staffs for (Walla Walla County) Fire District No. 4 and College Place and the city (Walla Walla),” Walla Walla Fire Chief Bob Yancey said. “(We) talked about some issues and at that meeting made the decision to go ahead and move forward with the next step which is trying to find a consultant to come and help us with this massive amount of work and data that has to be collected to present to the elected officials to help them make a decision whether to put it on a ballot or not.”
Yancey said he does have a phone call out to a consultant and hopes to hear back sometime this week. The primary task of the consultant, as Yancey put it, will be to collect information.
“You got revenue, expenditures, governance, plans, what do you do with all the equipment, how do you merge all three of this into one department and what would it look like; a lot of data collection on response and station locations and all that,” Yancey said.
In regards to station location, Yancey doesn’t see any changes to that, but said there may be some movement of paid staff to even out the response.
“We have great working relationships now as far as EMS and fire response,” he said. “This would just kind of formalize that, bring us all into one governance.”
Yancey estimates a price of $40,000 to $60,000 for the consultant to walk all three departments through the four- to five-month process.
“It also includes this consulting firm meeting with each of the paid staff from each department, each volunteer organization,” he said. “Community outreach – you know we want to involve the community and ask them what their needs are – so there’s a lot of work that goes into this.”
In November, College Place started a Basic Life Support ambulance service and now Walla Walla County Fire District No. 4 has begun an Advanced Life Support ambulance service.
“We collected data from November through March of this year and compared it to last year, and our call volume (WWFD) is down about 20 percent,” Yancey said. “We (WWFD) made 423 less calls, which average about 80 a month, and we’re down about 250 transported calls. That’s the one we focus on because that’s revenue. That means we’re not billing for those.”
Yancey added these numbers are also something the consult will be taking a close look at, including types of calls, where they’re at and who can respond the quickest.