A new fire station planned near Pilot Butte and a replacement station in Tumalo should put emergency responders closer to the people who need their help in Bend and the surrounding areas, a fire official said Thursday.

“We hope that it would help reduce response times, as well as fill in some areas that are holes in our system,” said Tom Fay, executive director of the Deschutes County Rural Fire Protection District No. 2.

The district owns one fire station in Tumalo and four stations in Bend, which it rents to the Bend Fire Department. The fire protection district includes about 130 square miles around Bend, and the Bend Fire Department is responsible for responding to fires and emergency medical calls in that area, as well as the city.

“The fire department responds to calls inside the city or inside the district as if it’s all the same,” Fay said.

The city’s goal is to have an average response time — measured from when the first response unit to arrive is notified of a call for service to when that unit arrives on scene — of six minutes for calls in Bend and nine in surrounding rural areas.

Between July and September, the most recent period for which data is available, the fire department’s average response time was 5:32 in Bend and 9:29 outside of Bend.

The new station in Bend, which Fay said is expected to cost about $3 million and will likely be paid for by borrowing money and recouping the costs through rent charged to the city, should help by being in closer proximity to the majority of the calls. The new station is planned just south of the Bend Police Department on Greenwood Avenue and 15th Street, and the majority of calls come from the downtown area or along Greenwood Avenue and Third Street.

“It’s closer to the core area, and that’s where most of our calls are,” Fay said.

The four other stations in Bend are on Country Club Drive just south of Murphy Road, at Neff and Hamby roads, on Simpson Avenue near Columbia Street and on Jamison Street near the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office.

About 80 percent of calls are medical in nature, so the new station will have an ambulance and possibly a fire engine, Fay said. Every other station has an ambulance and an engine, along with other types of vehicles. They might have a rescue apparatus with tools, including the jaws of life, or a water tender, which can carry water and draw it from streams or lakes to fight fires in rural areas without hydrants.

Ambulances range from basic life support ambulances, which can be staffed by emergency medical technicians, to emergency ambulances, which would require more highly trained paramedics. Adding a station in Bend likely won’t require adding to the fire department’s roughly 25-vehicle fleet.

“We’re actually full up on places where we can put vehicles,” Fay said.

However, the fire department is looking at hiring more firefighters and other emergency responders, mostly to reduce overtime costs when employees are sick or on vacation. Because fire departments have nationally set minimum staffing standards, off-duty firefighters get called in when others are out.

“Whether there’s a new station or not, we’re looking at bringing on additional firefighters,” Fay said.

While all of the Bend fire stations were built in 2000 or later, the station in Tumalo was built in the 1970s. A replacement station has been planned since 2000, and the fire protection district saved a little money every year since 2000 to have the $2.5 million to replace it.

A Tumalo station should be constructed south of the existing building. It would have more room to store engines and enough room for male and female firefighters to stay — the building has just one sleeping area.

The station may stay for storage purposes, Fay said.

“We’d hate to tear down the building if we could make effective use of it,” Fay said.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160; jshumway@bendbulletin.com

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