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Six new firefighters on the way

"The $7.5 million budget the South Kitsap Fire District 7 Commissioners approved for 2000 calls for hiring six more full-time firefighters.An increase in staff can give firefighters a better chance at responding to emergency calls within the district’s five-minute target range, Chief Mike Brown said.“One of the major impacts on our ability to maintain our five-minute response goal is the number of dual and triple alarms that occur in the headquarters fire station (Station 8) response area,” wrote Brown in his budget narrative to the commissioners. “Six new firefighters will allow us to staff an additional company that will accommodate” second and “sometimes third calls.” Located on Fircrest Drive, Station 8 responds to the district’s densest service area. As such, the station receives a majority of all emergency calls funneled through District 7.According to Brown, beefed-up staff levels at Station 8 will make four full-time firefighters available during a 24-hour period, rather than the two currently ready to respond. Whenever firefighters receive simultaneous, multiple calls at Station 8, the two career firefighters on duty can respond to the first, but not the other. Second and third calls are transferred to the nearest station, such as Station 31 on Tremont Street. Response times can lengthen to anywhere from seven to 10 minutes, officials said.Richard Metzger, a newly appointed Fire Commissioner, agrees with the staff increases.“Right after being appointed, I went around to every fire station—primarily so I could learn where they ar, but also to talk to folks at staff positions,” he said. “Every fire station I went to that day either had no staff firefighters or equipment because they were out on a call, or a call came in and they had to leave. It’s not like there are a lot of firefighters just sitting around.”The tentative plan now is to bring the new firefighters on by the end of February or the beginning of March, Metzger said. Meanwhile, renovation of Station 8 is nearly complete and should accommodate the new personnel. Brown said the decision to hire six new firefighters was based on a five-year-old study that examined the needs of the district, its population and the number of emergency calls generated annually.“In 1999, we received around 7,200 emergency calls,” Brown said."

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