This Benton County fire district wants to make you safer. Here’s how that could happen

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When insurance companies are looking at Badger Canyon homes, they see almost no fire protection.

That’s because the rating company that determines how well firefighters can battle a blaze doesn’t recognize the Badger Canyon Road fire station

“It’s because I don’t have enough volunteers at that firehouse to make it even identify itself on a map,” Benton County Fire District 1 Chief Lonnie Click said.

And with more growth in the area on the horizon, the district is asking for voters to approve a $3 million bond to change that. Most of the money will pay to add living quarters and an apparatus bay to the station so the district can staff the area full time.

The 20-year bond on the Aug. 6 ballot requires 60 percent voter approval.

17,000 served

The 320-square-mile district serves 17,000 people who live south of Kennewick and Richland. It includes the communities of Finley and Badger Canyon. Presently, it has 12 paid staff and 78 volunteers, with the hope of adding four more if it receives a federal grant.

If the bond issue is approved by voters, taxpayers would begin paying 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value in 2020.

Click said taxpayers shouldn’t feel much of a sting, since the proposed measure would replace two bonds — totaling 11 cents per $1,000 of assessed value — that will have recently been paid off.

If the bond is approved, construction would likely start in 2020. With the help of the federal grant, the district would move career staff over to the Badger Canyon fire station.

While the district is making plans for Badger Canyon, the entire district is preparing for a growing population base and greater need for service. It handled about 1,500 calls in the past year, and with the district’s population expected to cross 30,000 people in the next 20 years, more service calls are inevitable.

“We’ve got to stay up with the growth and demand of the fire district,” Click said.

What it pays for

Along with building upgrades, the money would pay for a new fire engine to replace one that is nearly 30 years old. The 105-foot aerial ladder truck is starting to show its age, and maintenance costs are rising and parts are getting harder to find for the 1992-model truck.

“We would like to get another smaller version that can be a primary responding apparatus on every emergency that we have instead of just taking the big one we have today,” Click said.

The other item on the ballot is a levy for $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The six-year measure replaces the existing levy for the same amount. The tax guarantees most of the district’s approximately $3 million budget.

The fire district plans to hold two public meetings to provide information about the two proposals. The first will be July 2 at Station 120, located at 30004 S. Finley Road, in Finley. The second will be July 16 at Station 140 at 7704 S. Bermuda Road. Both meetings start at 5:30 p.m.

Cameron Probert covers breaking news and education for the Tri-City Herald, where he tries to answer readers’ questions about why police officers and firefighters are in your neighborhood. He studied communications at Washington State University.