Four of the largest fire departments in Spokane County announced an agreement on Monday that will send the nearest fire or medical crew to emergency calls regardless of jurisdiction.
No longer will department brass have to make a formal request for mutual aid across fire service boundaries.
Instead, the county’s combined fire dispatch computer will identify the closest and most appropriate vehicle and crew and send that rig to the emergency.
Fire Chiefs Bobby Williams, of Spokane; Bryan Collins, of Spokane Valley; Jack Cates, of District 9; and Tony Nielsen, of District 8, appeared at a joint media event Monday to announce the agreement.
The agreement allows interagency dispatches without any exchange of funds, said Brian Schaeffer, assistant Spokane fire chief. As a result, the four departments are approaching the status of a regional fire force, although each agency will retain its current system of governance and funding.
The chiefs were joined by labor leaders, fire crews and fire commissioners. They were calling the agreement historic because of its significance in improving public safety.
Williams told the gathering that the agreement requires cooperation of different levels of the fire service from union firefighters to top brass.
Collins said automatic aid will be especially helpful during major emergencies when multiple crews are responding to the same incident and there is a call for help at a different location.
The new agreement builds on previous cooperation, including water rescue and a year-old borderless system of automatic aid between Spokane Valley and District 8.
Schaeffer said the announcement was preceded by more than a year of training to ensure that each agency would approach calls with the same protocols and terminologies.
Just like in sports, he said, “We need to be familiar with the plays.”
Schaeffer said the agreement “really eliminates the bureaucracy that results in lost time.”
He said areas on the urban fringe will benefit since agency boundaries meet in those locations, including the vicinity of 57th Avenue on the South Side or the North Division Street Y.
The agreement “essentially drops the borders for our neighboring agencies,” Schaeffer said. “We will send the closest, most appropriate resource.”
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