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Washington Voices

Fire District 8 gets community comment

Residents who attended Spokane County Fire District 8’s long range planning meeting Wednesday afternoon gave the district high marks for its low response times but generally agreed the district needed to work on its communication with the public.

The district, which stretches across the southern boundaries of Spokane and Spokane Valley, hosted four meetings to get community input on what it is doing well and what it needs to work on. Wednesday’s meeting drew residents as well as representatives from Avista Utilities and the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office.

Everyone seemed pleased with how the district’s response times compare to the national standard. The standard for emergency medical calls in the type of urban area the district serves is six minutes. The district responds in three minutes, 24 seconds or less 90 percent of the time.

During the meeting there was time for small group discussion. Groups were given questions to discuss and were asked to rank the importance of the types of calls the district responds to.

When asked what is working well, Glenrose resident Scott Barratt responded “I’ve not seen many fires lately.”

“So (fire) prevention is working great,” said District 8 Lt. Jake Hebden.

“Where I live most of the stuff is EMS response,” said Regal Place resident Marlys Bliesner.

Ideas for improving communication with residents included improving the district’s website, doing more with social media, doing direct mailings, holding open houses and putting up billboards. “As a neighbor, I really don’t know what goes on here much,” Barratt said.

Most agreed that the service costs associated with the district seem just right. One person questioned how much funding the district had for equipment replacement. “That’s definitely what has taken a step back,” Hebden said. “We’re definitely behind.”

Stan Seehorn, chief of Spokane County Fire District 11 centered near Rockford, said he just moved into District 8’s boundaries. The service cost is higher in District 8 than it is in District 11, but District 8 has a mix of paid and volunteer firefighters while District 11 has only volunteers, he said. “To me it’s not a factor, as long as I have service,” Seehorn said. “To me, the value is there.”

The input from community members will be used to create a strategic plan for the district that outlines how the district will make changes and improvements in the future. Acting Chief Tony Nielsen said the information gathered at the meetings will be listened to. “The last plan did not sit on a shelf,” he said. “It guided us.”

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