Benton County Fire District 4 is asking voters to consider a Fire Levy lid lift during the August 4 Primary Election. Funding would be used to hire three additional firefighters to respond to higher call volumes, which have increased almost eight percent a year since 2010.
“We need more full-time emergency personnel to respond to higher call volumes,” said Deputy Chief Paul Carlyle. “That’s the nuts and bolts of this request.”
The firefighters also would be cross-trained to respond to provide emergency medical service. EMS calls account for more than 60 percent of the Fire District’s call volume.
Fire District 4 is a combination department, which means it relies on full-time, part-time and volunteer firefighters to respond to emergency calls. Population growth for the West Richland area has increased to the point where additional full-time emergency personnel are needed.
Fire District 4 has been planning for this growth for some time. For example, it’s in the process of building a new station that will open in December at the western edge of its service area. The station will improve emergency response times for the area, as well as provide an additional fire engine and medic unit to respond to calls throughout the Fire District.
Having an adequate number of full-time firefighters is also the key to a successful volunteer program. Many volunteers have full-time jobs and need the Fire District to be flexible about when they volunteer. For example, some volunteers have new work schedules, or have taken on additional part-time jobs as a result of the pandemic. Other volunteers are staying home to care for children who normally would be in school. Deputy Chief Carlyle says accommodating the needs of volunteers is critical to keep them involved with the Fire District.
“Volunteers built Fire District 4 from the ground up,” said Deputy Chief Carlyle. “We need to be respectful of their time, including jobs and family commitments, so we don’t lose them altogether. Three additional full-time firefighters will provide some flexibility.”
The Fire Levy lid lift is 15-cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, and would cost the owner of a $300,000 home an additional $3.75 per month, or $45 per year. If approved by voters, the Fire Levy would return to $1.50/$1,000 from the current rate of $1.35. Voters last approved a Fire Levy rate of $1.50/$1,000 in 2015. Levy rates fall as property values rise to limit a fire district to roughly the same amount of revenue per year.
More information about the Fire Levy lid lift can be found on the Fire District’s website at www.bcfd4.org. Deputy Chief Paul Carlyle also is available to answer questions. He can be reached at [email protected] or 509-967-2945.
Benton County Fire District 4 provides fire and emergency medical service (EMS) to just over 19,000 people over 52 square miles, including the City of West Richland and its immediate unincorporated areas. The Fire District is not part of – nor does it receive funding from – any city or county government. Approximately 50 volunteer and career firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and paramedics respond to an average of 1,600 calls per year. Benton County Fire District 4 operates under a balanced budget and has a long history of passing all independent state audits.