Around the clock fire coverage coming to East Valley

Around the clock fire coverage coming to East Valley
YAKIMA, Wash. -- It's reassuring to know there's a fire station in your neighborhood. Some East Valley neighbors were shocked to learn nearby stations were not staffed round the clock.

"It is surprising," said East Valley neighbor Michael Anderson. "I didn't know that was the case. I thought it was already manned 24 hours a day."

That's what East Valley now has in the works.

"This new staffing takes care of that for us and provides better services to the taxpayers of the fire district," said East Valley Fire Chief Mike Riel.

As it stands now, only one of three stations here is staffed during the day, but there's no overnight crews.

Instead, volunteers remain on call.

"They're working regular jobs, it's very demanding when they've got training requirements they're trying to meet," said Riel. "The call volume keeps intensifying."

The chief says more people moving into East Valley means hundreds more calls every year.

Three new firefighters will be hired to help close growing gaps in coverage.

"More coverage is always better," said East Valley neighbor Dan Gragert.

East Valley said the new hires will cost you around $200,000 a year and could get crews to your home a minute faster.

In an emergency, seconds matter.

"I think anybody to be opposed, their mind would change if they had a fire in their house," said Gragert.

The district has struggled in the past with staffing. Back in 2009, a car burned freely for minutes outside of the district's unstaffed stations before crews arrived.

"You don't want it near your family or anything," said Gragert.

At least two firefighters will now be on duty around the clock. Two of the three stations in East Valley are empty at all times.

The East Valley fire chief says the district will review how well this new system works and revisit staffing levels again in the future.

The new firefighters are expected to be on the job by April.