Cheney Free Press -

Managing Editor 

Engine ordered, fire department looks at other needs in 2019


Last updated 11/29/2018 at 3:53pm

One of the Cheney Fire Department’s major accomplishments for 2018 was actually taken care of in October 2017.

That was when the City Council pulled the trigger on purchasing the department’s long-needed replacement for its main attack engine — agreeing to spend over $800,000 for the new pumper from Rosenbauer Fire Engines. The city applied $200,000 it had been saving from revenue collected via 2015’s levy lid lift along with taking out a $600,000, low-interest, 13-year loan — agreed to in June — from the Washington state Treasurer’s Office’s LOCAL fund to pay for the new engine.

While originally estimated to take 8 – 10 months to build, Fire Chief Tom Jenkins told the council during his Nov. 13 budget presentation that it will be another couple months before they can officially replace the department’s current, 31-year-old main truck.

Replacing Cheney’s old engine wasn’t the department’s sole accomplishment over the past 12 months. Jenkins said the department has also purchased its own ambulance to increase patient care, ordered “state-of-the-art” chest compression equipment, upgraded the fire station’s HVAC system and initiated a “Stop the Bleed” campaign in conjunction with Sacred Heart Medical Center.

Jenkins said the department has also had some success in initiating a part-paid volunteer program, although that success has waned a bit in the final months of the year. From April – June, the department had 18 part-paid volunteers manning shifts at the station, but from July – September, that number dropped by six, and currently stands at 17 volunteers.

Jenkins said the volunteers play a crucial role in helping the department reach its minimum requirement of “2 in/2 out” firefighter staffing levels to meet fire safety protocols. Right now, those volunteers fill slots left vacant when other full-time personnel go home, including Jenkins and Battalion Chief Ken Johnson.

Currently the department is on track to exceed last year’s call volume by 5 percent, projecting 1,531 calls by year’s end. Through October, 946 of the 1,308 calls were EMS, with 44 fire calls and 318 calls for other types of services.

In September, the department experienced a 25 percent increase in calls over the yearly average, something Jenkins said was more than just the fact that 30 percent of the department’s overall calls come from Eastern Washington University.

“That was across the community, not just students,” he told the council.

As with the emergency services counterparts at the police department, Jenkins said a strong percentage of calls were coming from residential developments on the east side of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific rail lines.

Jenkins listed a number of goals he hopes to achieve within the department’s $2.171 million 2019 budget. Some of those include creating a full-time fire marshal program, building a “robust” training plan to meet all state and federal mandates, improve on the community’s class 5 fire rating and “highlight and communicate fiscally prudent fire station facility updates to city leadership.”

Jenkins also said he is looking at engaging in strategic planning with other fire chiefs on the West Plains to form joint training facilities and programs.

John McCallum can be reached at


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