March 19--SOAP LAKE -- Soap Lake Fire Chief Dan Shields was given 60 days to improve the fire department or the city would consider contracting with Fire District 7.
Shields' hard work paid off and the city will keep its department.
The Soap Lake City Council delayed a decision to contract with Grant County Fire District 7 in January for 60 days, giving Shields an opportunity to turn the situation around.
"We had to have some results in 60 days and I think the results have surpassed expectations," Mayor Raymond Gravelle said. "They surpassed my expectations."
In those 60 days, the department grew from six volunteers to 17, all trained and certified for CPR and first aid.
"I just have to give my volunteers a huge thanks," Shields said. "There's no way I could have done it without all the people that I have. We've turned it upside down and came a long ways."
Shield also had the fire station reorganized and equipment inventoried and repaired.
The department has also improved its response time for calls, from more than 12 minutes from receiving a call to arriving on scene, to 8 minutes or less. Shields said the average for rural counties in the state is about 10 minutes.
He still wants to improve the department's response time, from 5 to 8 minutes.
The department now responds to a call with a full truck and about six firefighters, compared to maybe just one firefighter on a call when the department had fewer volunteers.
Contracting with Fire District 7 would have cost the city about $44,000, about the same cost as running the all-volunteer city department.
Copyright 2013 - Columbia Basin Herald, Moses Lake, Wash.