Yakima Fire Department overdoing it?

Yakima Fire Department overdoing it? »Play Video
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Yakima is considering cutting back on the number of firefighters who initially respond to unconfirmed first-alarm fires to make the department more efficient.

Arthur Osborn knows firsthand how close a fire can get after his neighbor's kitchen went up in flames a couple of days ago.

"I looked up the street and saw a couple fire engines," said Osborn.

Neighbors KIMA spoke with say the more crews the better, but is there a such thing as overdoing it?

"We questioned whether we were properly deploying our resources," said Yakima City Manager Tony O'Rourke.

A recent reassessment of Yakima Fire Department's initial response found it could do better.

Right now, the department sends all of its on-duty firefighters and equipment whenever a call comes in; that's four staffed engines, a truck and batallion chief sent for what could turn out to be a false alarm.

Action News pulled the numbers and learned last year Yakima crews responded to roughly 150 fire calls.

Over half of those were false alarms or small fires.

"What's the risk of going all in on an unconfirmed structure fire?" KIMA asked.

"Well, you expose the rest of the city. You're assuming there's not going to be a simultaneous fire somewhere else in the city," said O'Rourke.

As it is now, Yakima would need outside help to respond. However, the department plans to try something new.

When a fire call comes in, the response would almost be cut in half; two engines would respond instead of four and a ladder truck would go too.

YFD would rely on the first crews to respond or other confirmation of a larger emergency to trigger a full response.

"That would be a good thing," said Osborn.

City Council will be briefed on the plan this week. The change would be done on a trial basis to see how well it works before making it permanent.

Yakima sends more firefighters on calls to a first-alarm compared to cities of similar size.

The city says the change could save some money in gas.

However, Yakima says it would not reduce the number of fire station brownouts.