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Valley Fire votes to lend expertise

Spokane Valley Fire Department commissioners voted Monday to allow their investigators to respond to fires in Eastern Washington when requested.

The state used to pay to send fire investigators from large districts to small districts that did not have investigators of their own when needed, said Fire Marshal Kevin Miller. That money was cut by the state, leaving rural districts on their own when a serious fire occurred. The other districts in the area with certified fire investigators are Fire District 9 and the city of Spokane. District 9 has indicated it will enact a similar policy, said Chief Mike Thompson.

The proposed resolution before the commissioners was to send an investigator if a fire resulted in a fatality or a firefighter injury. The numbers are expected to be low, Miller said, since Spokane Valley Fire investigators already respond to help smaller Spokane County districts under mutual aid agreements. “It would be a small financial impact,” he said.

Commissioner Kolby Hanson asked if the policy could be expanded to include suspected arson fires that cause a significant injury. “I don’t think we should wait for someone to die,” he said.

The other commissioners agreed to expand the policy to allow investigators to respond to any fire that results in serious injury, not just arson fires. “You don’t know that until you get up there,” Miller said.

In other business, commissioners voted to extend an interlocal agreement for ground ambulance service that involves a dozen other fire departments and districts. Negotiations for a regional agreement with American Medical Response are under way and an extension of the current agreement will give negotiators until June 30 to strike a deal.