Full firefighting capability is being restored today to a key South Hill fire station hobbled a year and a half ago by city budget cuts.
The expanding role for Station 9, located at 1722 S. Bernard St., comes as newly trained recruits begin reporting for duty, said Spokane Mayor David Condon.
Each shift at the station is getting a third firefighter, which is designed to give enough of a staffing boost to enable crews to respond to any type of call for service that’s received. Because of the station’s limited staffing since January 2013, its two-member crews have primarily responded only to auto accidents and first-aid calls, which account for at least 85 percent of the total workload.
Fire Chief Bobby Williams said the station’s primary service area averages just one structure fire call per month.
The staffing cuts in 2013 were part of a budget-balancing effort as Condon sought to make good on a campaign promise to avoid tax increases his first year in office. Station 9 was selected for cutbacks because the overwhelming demand for emergency services in the neighborhoods around it involve medical-related needs, Williams said, and there are several nearby fire stations able to handle first-response to any reports of structure fires without significantly increasing response times.
But the move was controversial, and Condon, along with the City Council, made restoration of full firefighting capability a top priority for 2014. The estimated $400,000 annual cost of the four additional firefighters is being covered by a portion of this year’s 2 percent tax increase, which city leaders dedicated to restoring public safety cuts.
Williams said the new firefighters just finished recruit training and will start filling shifts today.