One department goal in 2014 is to begin planning for replacing major equipment
Like all other city departments relying on general fund tax revenue, the Cheney Fire Department is hoping to do at least as much in the way of service in 2014 as they have in 2013 – and with not a whole lot more revenue.
The Fire Department is proposing a 2014 budget of $1,581,400, most of which would come out of a combination of revenue resources that make up the city’s projected $6,787,500 general fund budget. Fire Chief Mike Winters said in an email the department’s proposal is $30,100 more than last year, just under a 2 percent increase.
Winters outlined some of the department’s accomplishments as well as future goals during a presentation at the City Council’s Oct. 22 meeting. Some of those 2013 accomplishments were maintaining a less than four-minute incident response time; something Winters said is well below national averages.
The department increased training for resident and volunteer firefighter staff, with residents completing over 2,000 hours and volunteers 1,500 hours. Firefighters inspected 100 percent of Cheney businesses along with Eastern Washington University and Cheney School District buildings, and replaced some of its wildland fire protective clothing as well as other outdated and unserviceable equipment, something Winters said they would continue to do in 2014.
One piece of equipment drawing council questions was a main fire engine. In interviews with the Cheney Free Press for Oct. 10 campaign articles, council members Fred Pollard and John Taves said they were aware of needs within the Fire Department that included replacing the main engine sometime in the near future.
He questioned Winters about this at the Oct. 22 meeting, with Winters responding that the engine “should’ve been replaced a long time ago.” If replaced, that engine would then “go away” and bump the No. 1 engine down to a reserve status. Taves originally said replacing the engine would run in the neighborhood of $450,00 to $500,000.
“Unfortunately I just can’t go out and buy a new fire truck with a credit card,” Winters said. Winters added they had put $4,000 into repairing the engine’s transmission because the casing had cracked, adding the transmission not only helps drive the truck but also the vehicle’s fire fighting apparatus.
In an Oct. 30 interview, Cheney Mayor Tom Trulove and City Administrator Arlene Fisher said the council questions regarding the Fire Department’s engines “came as news” to them and wasn’t something that had really been discussed. Both said the engines are working adequately, and that the city does have a fire equipment reserve fund they try to put as much revenue into as possible, noting that three-quarters of the department’s calls are for medical assistance.
According to information from Winters’ council presentation, roughly 370 calls in 2013 were for non-life threatening emergency medical services while just over 300 were life threatening emergencies. This compares with less than 50 calls for structure fires, and under 10 each for brush fires or hazardous materials calls.
Winters told the council that department goals for 2014 were to continue working towards improving emergency response times, continue updating and replacing equipment, enhance volunteer and resident firefighter programs, search for grant funding and begin planning replacement of capital equipment.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.