11/27/2014

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Urgent need for volunteer firefighters in Lower Valley

Urgent need for volunteer firefighters in Lower Valley
WHITE SWAN, Wash. -- There's a desperate need for volunteer firefighters in the Lower Valley. An elderly woman didn't survive the fire that destroyed her White Swan home a couple weeks ago. After the smoke cleared, neighbors asked KIMA why it took firefighters so long to get there.

"I'd come outside several times and look and looked at the time and it was just, it just took them forever," said Deanna Swan.

KIMA drove from the White Swan fire station to the house that burned. It took about a minute. It took firefighters 21. That's because they had to send an engine from Harrah.

The White Swan fire station is unmanned. And volunteer firefighters were unavailable.

"We don't have many resources available because resources come from a longs way away if they need help out there," said Yakima County Fire District Five Volunteer Coordinator Andy Babcock.

"It's a big concern to me because we're a small community,” said neighbor Dolores Ahto. “We all pull together for each other but when there is no firefighters, there's nothing anybody can do."

Yakima County Fire District Five has 14 stations. Half are unmanned, which means volunteers are called as needed. Those that are manned likely have just one person. And that person isn't guaranteed to be at the station 24/7.

Volunteer Coordinator Andy Babcock says there's an urgent need for volunteer firefighters. Right now, the district has 180. Its goal is to have 250.

Sarah Boyle signed up more than a year ago. After 175 hours of training, she says it's all been worth it.

"Whether it's saving a house, putting out a grass fire or helping someone's family in need, it's an amazing feeling,” said volunteer firefighter Sarah Boyle. “It's hard to explain."

Selah and Union Gap fire also have an urgent need for volunteers. Selah has 48 and wants 70. Union Gap says it has nine and wants to double that.

Call your local fire station if you can help.
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