A lot has changed since the spring of 2020. The arrival of COVID-19 upended almost every aspect of our lives and forced us all to adapt to a new world. We are two paid on-call firefighters/EMTs at Wood River Fire & Rescue, and our department has a plan to continue adapting and evolving. We support the bond for a new station and hope that after reading this, you will, too.
Since March 2020, our department has dramatically changed the way it serves the public. It is very much for the better. In the last 18 months, we have staffed two stations (instead of just one, pre-COVID), one in Hailey and one in Bellevue, for 24 hours a day, 98% of the time. This means we are getting to calls faster and with more personnel.
This is especially impactful for calls south of Bellevue. By staffing a Bellevue station, we arrive on scene at motor vehicle accidents near the blinking light almost 10 minutes faster than before, as well as other incidents such as wildland fires and medical calls.
Wood River Fire & Rescue (WRFR) is not just fire. We also provide the ambulance service for the southern Blaine County, including Hailey and Bellevue. We respond to anything from backcountry rescues or hazardous material incidents to wildland fires or trapped animals.
WRFR is also a “combination department,” which means that we rely on full-time staff and paid-on-call members to maintain a high level of service to the citizens of our community. Some of us do this as our primary career; some of us have other jobs. But we all hear when a call comes in, and we respond to the best of our abilities when there is a need.
On Nov. 2, we are asking for a new fire station so we can better serve you.
Currently, we cannot fit all of our equipment into one station in Hailey. Instead, it is spread between two stations six blocks apart. Therefore, our first-out crews in Hailey can’t always respond immediately in the most appropriate apparatus without going to a different station. A new station would eliminate two separate stations in Hailey and combine them into one, allowing crews to walk into a bay that has the exact apparatus needed for your house fire, medical call or backcountry rescue.
Our station one in Hailey was not intended to be a fire station and, therefore, our engines must be specially designed just to fit inside. Not only is this more expensive, but it also produces unnecessary compromises. Our first-out engine is governed at 62 mph because the driveline was shortened so that it could fit into the bay. That means we arrive slower to your emergency due to the inadequacies of this station.
The bond includes funds to update our station in Bellevue, which is now routinely staffed. We want to make sure this facility is up to the challenge that comes with the growth of our valley.
We plan for the new station just north of Hailey to evolve with our valley. It includes enough space for bigger crews and to staff it for 24 hours a day in the future. We have designed it to address all of the issues stated above and more. We even included space for future permanent housing for staff.
We are proud of the work that we do. It’s a commitment that we make to the citizens of this community every day, every night, whenever you need us. Please consider supporting your dedicated firefighters.
No department funds, equipment or time was used to write this letter.
Sara Gress and Hannes Thum are firefighters with Wood River Fire & Rescue. More information is available at woodriverfirebond.org.