Fire district halts aid response to medical calls on White Pass
A dispute with Yakima County over funding has led fire commissioners in this town along U.S. Highway 12 to end, for now, sending ambulance...
NACHES, Yakima County — A dispute with Yakima County over funding has led fire commissioners in this town along U.S. Highway 12 to end, for now, sending ambulance crews to medical calls in the White Pass area.
Fire commissioners voted Friday night to end sending crews outside their response district to handle medical emergencies at White Pass, about 35 miles west of the town. Fire Chief Dan Mansfield said it will take medical crews coming from nearby Gleed at least 15 minutes more to arrive at emergencies on the pass.
Crews from private ambulance agencies in Yakima — about 15 miles southeast of Naches — will still regularly respond to calls.
Mansfield said that neither the fire commissioners nor the volunteer firefighters want to stop responding to calls.
"But the only way to get the attention to get this problem solved was to draw the line and say we can't do this anymore and it needs to be fixed," Mansfield told the Yakima Herald-Republic.
The dispute revolves around money allocated by a Yakima County advisory board from an emergency medical-services levy. The advisory board recommends a final levy budget for Yakima County.
The Naches fire-district boundary ends about five miles west of the town. Firefighters have regularly responded to calls outside their jurisdiction as a courtesy for more than a decade.
Naches fire officials say they respond to about 50 aid calls a year in the White Pass area.
According to figures from the Naches officials, the fire district receives about $6,000 yearly from the emergency medical-services levy assessed on property owners at White Pass.
But Naches officials say that answering calls in the 75-square-mile area around White Pass actually costs about twice that amount.
Mansfield said Naches fire commissioners have pressed the advisory board in the past to allocate more money for out-of-district responses.
The decision to stop responding to medical calls will not affect fire response in the White Pass area. The Naches district responds to those calls under a separate agreement.
County Commissioner Ron Gamache told the Yakima Herald-Republic on Friday night that he hopes the parties will resolve the issue soon.
About 200 people live in the affected area, which also has several youth camps and attracts tourists and outdoors enthusiasts.
White Pass landowners are working to form their own fire district, but that could take a couple of years, Mansfield said.
Packwood, on the west side of White Pass, has said its aid crews will come down the east side of the pass if feasible.
Meanwhile, some White Pass residents are concerned the county hasn't stepped in to find a compromise.
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