Friday, April 13, 2012

Fire agencies seek new auto-aid pact

Tri-party agreement calls for automatic responses


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

Mike Elle

With votes of approval Wednesday from Ketchum Rural Fire District commissioners, a new agreement is on its way to providing automatic aid among the district, the Ketchum Fire Department and Wood River Fire & Rescue.

"If you need help for any incident, you can [currently] call for it from any agency," Ketchum Fire Chief Mike Elle said at the meeting. "Provided they have the resources, they'll send them. This agreement allows that to happen automatically. The incident commander doesn't have to remember to do it. They can concentrate on what they're doing on scene."

Ketchum and Ketchum Rural personnel are city employees and are supervised by the Ketchum Fire Chief.

Ketchum Rural Fire and Wood River Fire & Rescue currently have an auto-aid agreement for a mid-valley area, from Timber Way to Ohio Gulch Road, including Greenhorn and part of East Fork. Under that agreement, both agencies are called out for medical, fire and motor vehicle issues.

The agreement, if approved, would provide an automatic response by Ketchum and Ketchum Rural for structure fires within Wood River's jurisdiction and an automatic EMS response to Wood River's mid-valley zone. Wood River would provide automatic response for structure fires within the other agencies' jurisdictions and automatic EMS response to the mid-valley zone covered by Ketchum.

"The purpose of this agreement is not the acquisition of more taxable property by any other jurisdiction, but is to create an enhanced response capability by utilizing each agencies [sic] similar command structure, firefighter training standards and depth of personnel to provide increased firefighter safety and higher quality emergency services ... ," the proposed agreement reads.

The agreement would not require agencies to respond if resources are unavailable.

Elle said that nationwide, the number of paid on-call firefighters is diminishing. That, coupled with their lessening availability to respond to calls—especially during the workday—has led officials to find ways to ensure coverage. Adequate coverage is needed not only for the incident itself, but also for responders' safety, he said.

"We get more firefighters on the scene sooner in order to perform rescues, contain and control fires and reduce risk of injury to our folks," Elle said in an interview. "It helps us with collaboration and cooperation."

The tri-party agreement wouldn't be a major departure from current operations, because agencies typically call on each other for aid.

"It memorializes the way we've been behaving for the last 20 years," said Commissioner Chris Stephens.

The agreement also must be approved by Wood River Fire Protection District commissioners and the Ketchum City Council.

The issue is expected to be on the council's agenda May 7.

Elle said it would take about 30 days to get changes made in the dispatch system and complete training.

Rebecca Meany: rmeany@mtexpress.com




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