Spokane Valley Fire Chief Bryan Collins reported on his efforts to quell concerns from neighbors upset about the response time to a recent fire during Monday’s fire commissioner meeting.
The fire at 5523 N. Best Road was called in by a passer-by at 11:47 a.m. Oct. 20. Rumors were circulating among neighbors that it took firefighters more than 20 minutes to arrive. Collins said he organized a meeting with the neighbors within days of the fire to present the facts and deal with concerns.
“It is an area that is challenging,” Collins said. “It’s on the border. It is in our district, but it was not dispatched to our district.”
Since the address was on the border between Valley Fire and Spokane County Fire District 9 the dispatcher had a choice of which agency to send. District 9 was chosen. Three engines, a ladder truck and a rescue unit were dispatched at 11:49 a.m.
Deputy Chief Andy Hail said he doesn’t fault the dispatcher. “They cover 500 square miles,” he said. “They don’t know the area like we do.”
The nearest District 9 unit was about seven minutes away. At 11:53 a.m. District 9 requested that Spokane Valley Fire Engine 5 be added to the call. That unit’s drive time is about five minutes. The first District 9 engine arrived at 11:59 a.m. Engine 5 arrived a minute later.
The computer glitch that labeled the address as being in District 9 has been fixed, Hail said.
Collins said the neighbors seemed to appreciate the meeting and he will work with District 9 to improve their automatic aid agreement to create seamless responses to border areas.
Commissioner Mike Pearson said he appreciated the chief’s quick response. “You didn’t let it linger,” he said. “You took it right on.”
In other business, the commissioners voted unanimously to approve the department’s 2014 budget and property tax rate. The budget calls for estimated revenues of $31.5 million and expenses of $30.8 million. The budget includes a 0.8 percent pay increase for employees, a new fire inspector, a full-time finance director and a down payment on an aerial ladder truck.
Property values are rising in Spokane Valley, which usually means the levy rate per $1,000 in assessed home value drops. Collins said he wanted to keep the rate the same as it now, the maximum of $1.50 per $1,000 in assessed value. This will lead to an additional $285,000 being collected in 2014, an increase of 2 percent. “The rate stays exactly the same,” he said.
Collins said he made the decision to keep the levy amount the same to help the department recover from the loss of property tax revenue incurred when home values dropped several years ago. “This is catch up,” he said. “We’re just going back to where we were three years ago.”