A fire hall expansion and the addition of dorm rooms will more than double the number of firefighters able to respond to emergencies in rural southern Benton County.
Benton County Fire District 6 voters approved a sales tax increase in 2015 so the district could hire two more full-time firefighters and add 2,000 square feet to the station.
The station was built in 1983 in Paterson, near the Oregon border.
Fire Chief Rolland Watt was the only paid professional working around the clock for the 270-square-mile district. The district was averaging 2.8 volunteers per emergency call before the measure was approved.
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Two more salaried employees and new dorms allow four volunteers to stay overnight at the hall.
“We will have the five of us on shift working with the three volunteers,” Watt said. “It will make a huge difference.”
Construction on the $385,100 project should start in April and be completed in a few weeks. The project was delayed because of the weather.
“We had the permits but the ground is frozen,” Watt said. “Everything sort of came to a halt.”
The project also includes remodeling the offices and bathrooms to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. “It doubles our current office space,” Watt said.
In addition to three paid employees, the fire district has about 20 volunteers to protect the homes and businesses of about 1,000 people. The ambulance service has a larger coverage area of about 400 square miles.
Watt said most of their calls range from industrial accidents to large wild fires.
“I have been working on this for seven, almost eight years, and it is coming to fruition,” he said.