Changes finalized for city and county fire department responses

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COLUMBIA - The Boone County Fire District and the Columbia Fire Department finalized an updated cooperative agreement early Thursday morning.

The agreement originally allowed for the departments to respond to emergency calls that were closest to a station, regardless of which jurisdiction the call came from.

"It worked out well in the beginning because the call volume was not too high, but, exponentially, the county was responding to calls in the city to the tune of about 750 calls a year," said Gale Blomenkamp, Boone County Fire District's assistant chief. 

Responses from the county outnumbered the 280 county calls the city responded to that year. The city even ended up paying Boone County $350,000 to compensate for the difference. 

A plan to close the gap was drawn up in May by the departments, the respective boards of directors and the Columbia City Council. The plan was to adjust zoning for responses so each department would not have to respond to more than 100 calls in the other's jurisdiction within a year. 

It took months for the maps to be finalized and for Public Safety Joint Communications Center to change its Computer Aided Dispatch System.

"It took several hundreds of hours of work to get the CAD ready," PSJC's Deputy Director Joe Piper said. "This change will allow for better resource management. Our job was just to make it happen with our computer system."

Starting Thursday, when someone calls about an emergency, the staff members at PSJC will put the caller's information into the updated CAD system.

Callers who live in the city of Columbia who have a situation that is urgent or life threatening will receive a response from both the city and the county's fire departments. If that caller's situation falls into a category deemed less urgent, the caller will only receive a response from CFD. The same is true for a CFD response to a caller in the county. 

Blomenkamp said he thinks the agreement will make things easier on the county's volunteer firefighters and allow residents get the help they need more effectively. 

The updated agreement is valid until the end of 2020.