Call Volumes Increased 22% Last Year
Benton County Fire District #4 reports that call volumes were up 22% in 2021 (2,054) compared to 2020 (1,684). Emergency medical service accounted for 62% of all calls the agency received last year. Fire Chief Paul Carlyle says that the agency is ready to respond thanks to community support.
“We are extremely grateful to residents and businesses in our community,” said Chief Paul Carlyle. “We have been able to hire additional personnel and have a strong volunteer program thanks to their personal and financial support.”
Benton 4 will have four more full-time firefighters. It also is recruiting volunteers for the spring academy, and nine have registered so far. Add to it the 10 volunteers who graduated from the fall academy, and relief is on the way to handle higher call volumes.
“We knew growth was coming, our community was aging, and have planned accordingly. We communicated this need to property owners, and they have been supportive of funding to maintain and improve service levels,” said Chief Carlyle. “On behalf of everyone at Benton County Fire District #4 – thank you.”
Looking ahead to 2022, the Fire District plans to replace its breathing support system for firefighters, and remodel stations as funding allows. Station 420 will receive a significant remodel: new flooring, bath and showers in firefighter quarters, paint, and improving signage out front. Station 410 may see some improvements as well. At this point, Benton 4 is struggling to find architects and contractors willing to take on more work.
The agency anticipates asking voters to return the levy for emergency medical service to $0.50 per $1,000 of assessed value sometime this fall.
The Washington Surveying and Rating Bureau will be in the Fire District starting in May to rerate the agency. The WSRB assesses fire risk for insurance companies, and is linked to what some homeowners pay in premiums.
Benton 4 also is responding to a survey from Medicare to report the true costs associated with ambulance service. The federal government may raise the reimbursement rate for transports. Medicare represents almost half of the agency’s transport fees for ambulance service. The current reimbursement rate is $400 compared to $1,100 from private insurance companies.