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More emergency aid coming

As the population of Spokane Valley increases, so does the number of medical emergencies that make up the majority of responses from Valley Fire crews.

In addition to 19 new firefighters who will graduate from their training next week, Fire Chief Mike Thompson also has persuaded American Medical Response to station another ambulance in the Valley to help keep up with the increase in calls.

“That will help our response times tremendously,” he said,

Ambulances in Spokane Valley are stationed at Valley Hospital and Medical Center and in the area of Argonne Road.

After discussions about the increase in medical runs with the new head of AMR, which provides ambulances for the Valley, Thompson said they agreed to deploy a third ambulance in the area of Sullivan and Interstate 90 for 12 hours a day starting in June.

“Usually with (fire) districts like ours, most of the calls are medical,” said Valley Fire Spokesman Bill Clifford.

Emergencies requiring a response from the department have increased steadily in recent years, which Clifford attributes in part to the area’s housing growth.

“It just goes hand in hand with population,” he said.

In 2005, Valley firefighters handled about 9,200 calls. In 2006 they handled about 9,700 – more than 5 percent increase.

Citing increased demands on the department, it asked voters for a $37 million operations levy that was passed last year.

Nine new firefighter positions resulted from the levy, with the rest of the 19 hired filling positions left open by retirements or those leaving on military assignments.

They start work May 21, rotating through different shifts and fire stations getting a feel for the district, Clifford said.

Five new fire trucks also will come on line that day, with older trucks moving around the district.

The personnel increase will be the second largest in the department’s history.

The new firefighters were narrowed from a field of more than 300 who took a civil service exam. Physical tests were administered to 50 applicants. A smaller number were interviewed, with the top contenders asked to attend the fire academy and fill the open positions, Clifford said.

A public graduation ceremony for the firefighters takes place 10 a.m., Friday, at the CenterPlace community center. Each will be introduced and the department’s honor guard will be present.

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