Pullman Fire Chief Mike Heston said approximately half of the more than 3,000 calls his department responded to last year were to Washington State University and the College Hill area.
Heston addressed the increase in calls and various other challenges and changes happening with the Pullman Fire Department at a League of Women Voters brown bag meeting Thursday in Pullman.
In 2015, he said, the PFD responded to 3,425 calls, a 2.5 percent increase from the prior year. Of those calls, 23 percent were on the WSU campus and another 24 percent were within the vicinity of College Hill.
Heston said the busiest time on College Hill used to be after 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights, but during the past few years calls have started to increase beginning on Wednesday nights.
WSU Mom’s Weekend, Halloween weekend and home WSU football games are always the busiest times of the year, he said. Heston said he has at least 20 personnel at each home game. Normally, at least 30 people in the stadium are treated for alcohol-related issues and another six are usually transported to Pullman Regional Hospital.
Heston said he hasn’t seen a huge increase in medical calls related to the legalization of marijuana, but the department does perform more blood draws for police to detect marijuana in a driver’s system.
Heston said 71 percent of the calls the PFD responds to are medical related. Heston said the department responds to about a half-dozen structure fires annually.
Overall, the call volume is holding fairly steady as Pullman continues to grow, he said.
While the city isn’t growing too fast, the fire department is getting a little behind with staffing and is in need of a new fire station, he said. Currently, the department has 30 career positions, 25 reserve firefighters and two fire stations.
The construction of a new fire station is at least five years out, he said. Fire Station Two, located at Grand Avenue and Terre View Drive, recently underwent a remodel.
Funding remains a roadblock for a new station, and any construction would have to be voted on by the City Council.
As the city continues to grow, traffic and keeping quick response times may also become more of an issue, he said.
Heston said the engines and ambulances are equipped with Opticons, a system attached to the top of a vehicle that allows it to control traffic signals.
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