Boone County Fire evaluating responses after record year

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BOONE COUNTY -  The Boone County Fire Protection District responded to a record number of calls in 2014. District officials said Monday, it's time to reevaluate its operations to keep with the increased demand.

"As a volunteer agency we've got some stations that are running more calls than some paid departments run in a full year," Batallion Chief Gale Blomenkamp said.

Because of the demand, Blomenkamp said the district is adjusting its agreements with surrounding cities in order to better serve Boone County residents. 

On Friday, Boone County Fire Protection District Chief Scott Olsen shared with his board of directors and BCFPD personnel that Centralia Fire Station 2 would become the first responders for both EMS and fire calls within Centralia city limits. Centralia City Administrator Matt Harline said he was not suprised when he heard this. He said the Centralia Fire Department, a volunteer agency, has been working towards this for several years. 

"I really dont think this is going to cause any major concerns," he said. "We couldn't have done this ten years, we couldn't have made this shift 10 years ago. Its been a gradual shift and we're ready to take it on."

Harline said the volunteer fire crews have the training and know-how to respond to both major medical, as well as fire calls, within the city. 

Blomenkamp said this is an example of a way partnering jurisdictions can work with the Fire District to ease the number of calls being taken outside of Boone County.

"They're paying us to respond to Boone County and when 20 percent of call volume is outside of legal jurisidcition we need to figure how to fix that."

Blomenkamp said District officials are working with Columbia Fire and city of Columbia leaders to identify ways to also lessen the load on district volunteers. 

Its contract runs through March. While no decisions have been reached Monday, Blomenkamp said he expects developments in the coming weeks.