Lacey Fire District 3’s Station 35 has been open again for almost a month and it has already noticed an improvement in response times in the area.
Crews were removed from the station in April 2012 because of budget constraints, adding an average response time of two minutes to calls that had to be routed to the district’s station on Steilacoom Road.
A $2.4 million federal grant provided the funds needed to hire 12 firefighters to help re-staff the station. Now there is a three-person crew at the station around the clock.
Those crews respond to an average of three or four calls per day and response time has dropped an average of about two minutes, according to Chief Steve Brooks.
The crew also made a difference in one recent fire in Station 35’s jurisdiction earlier this month.
A fire that started in some beauty bark spread to a fence and caught a house on fire, Brooks said. The Station 35 crews were on scene within three minutes.
If crews had to travel from the Steilacoom station, it would have added precious time, according to firefighter Ryan Perz.
“Fire doubles in size every 60 seconds,” Perz said. “It could have been a lost cause if it weren’t for this station.”
Perz works his shifts out of the Willamette Drive station now with two other firefighters, Martin Ranney and Eric Zohn. The station staffs volunteer firefighters, as well.
Zohn, hired on with federal grant money, is one of 11 firefighters who went through an in-house academy this summer. A 12th firefighter has since been hired and will be going through the academy in August.
While Zohn has experience, tailoring his knowledge to the Lacey Fire District is the biggest challenge.
“Those are the things I need to get down,” he said.
The three practiced using ladders and hoses at the commercial buildings around the firehouse Wednesday.
The public has already noticed the crew’s return, and have frequently stopped by, Perz said.
“We have a lot of citizens just coming by to say ‘Hi’ and say they are glad we are open,” Perz said. “Some citizens even donated patio furniture to us.”
The lingering question is whether the station will remain open. The federal funding covers the costs needed to operate the station for two years.
Brooks said fire district commissioners are still working through options, which include the possibility for a tax levy lid lift.
“We need to figure out if a levy lid lift would be adequate to cover what is required or not,” Brooks said. “We won’t know that until we have this year’s valuations and projections.”
Chelsea Krotzer: 360-754-5476 firstname.lastname@example.org @chelseakrotzer