Friday, January 24, 2014

Hailey, Wood River sign agreement

Old differences put aside to provide automatic aid


By TONY EVANS
Express Staff Writer

    The Hailey Fire Department and the Wood River Fire and Rescue department have signed an auto-aid agreement that both sides say will ensure timely and organized responses to fires in the city of Hailey.
    The auto-aid agreement assigns specific duties to various fire department personnel in case of a fire, and organizes the use of various fire-fighting engines and equipment.
    “No one department has enough equipment to deal with large fires, so the more we work together and get to know one another’s equipment, the better it will be,” said Wood River Chief Bart Lassman.
    Hailey and Wood River—which serves a far-ranging district in Blaine County—have fire stations next door to one another on Third Avenue in Hailey, and have responded successfully together to fires in the valley for many years. But in 2009, there was a difference of opinion about how fire trucks should be dispatched to fires in the city.
    Former Hailey Fire Chief Mike Chapman required of Wood River that it respond to fires in the city with a ladder truck first. That required Wood River personnel to travel from a station downtown to the second station on Third Avenue. In 2009, Lassman refused to sign an auto-aid agreement that he thought could possibly limit his 24-hour personnel from responding to a fire in the fastest manner possible.


I am excited to work with Craig Aberbach.”
Bart Lassman
Wood River chief




    “We were potentially having to drive past a fire to go get the ladder truck from another station,” said Lassman. “We were concerned with possibly increasing response time, even though we had people here [downtown] 24/7.”
    The Hailey Fire Department has firefighters on site on Third Avenue, but only during the daytime hours during the work week.
    Craig Aberbach, of Coral Gables, Fla., took over as chief of the Hailey Fire Department on Nov. 1. He reported to the Hailey City Council last week that a new auto-aid agreement was in place, which satisfies both fire chiefs’ needs and priorities.
    “This will send the apparatus where they are needed,” Aberbach said.
    Under the new agreement, only fires in specific large buildings (commercial buildings and residential structures three stories and taller) called out in the auto-aid agreement will trigger the notice to Wood River to bring the ladder truck.
     For fires in smaller residential homes, Wood River’s career on-duty fire fighters and an engine will respond, followed immediately by a staff ambulance.
     “I am excited to work with Craig Aberbach,” Lassman said.
    “We are talking about doing joint training. … We want to put all those bad feelings aside and do what is right for the public,” he said.
Tony Evans: tevans@mtexpress.com




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