The Board of Fire Commissioners for Benton County Fire District #4 approved its annual budget for 2022 at a recent meeting. Highlights for the coming year include hiring four additional firefighters, upgrading computer systems after a recent ransom attack, and replacing an air truck that is currently on loan from a state agency. Staffing continues to be a priority for the fire district. Call volumes have increased 22.4% in 2021 compared to the same time last year. The fire district prepared for this by budgeting for four new firefighters in 2022.
“We have a long-term plan in place to gradually hire more emergency personnel,” said Fire Chief Paul Carlyle. “These step increases reduce impacts to taxpayers.”
The fire district plans to upgrade its computer systems, as well. A hacker tried to ransom Benton County Fire District #4’s technology system last year. The information technology company that supports the fire district shut down the attack, but it left agency personnel without access to its computer system for a time.
Capital items for 2022 include replacing an air truck that was on loan from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. The truck is used to refill air tanks of firefighters during emergency calls. The cost for such a specialized piece of apparatus is estimated to be $300,000. However, staff feels it can outfit a trailer to provide the same support function for $80,000.
“We’re always looking for ways to stretch tax dollars further,” said Chief Carlyle. “It’s even more important now to cut costs where we can due to inflation.”
The fire district also wants to remodel the original 25-year-old bathroom and kitchen at Station 420 on Bombing Range Road. Both Stations 420 and 410 (N. Harrington Road) are scheduled for interior painting and flooring replacement. These projects have been difficult to complete due to shortages of labor and materials.