Consultants brought in to help local fire departments

 The fire departments of Medical Lake, Airway Heights and Spokane Fire District 10 are once again putting their heads together, but this time they are bringing in an outside source for help.

The three fire departments have entered into an interlocal agreement to bring in consultants from Emergency Services Consulting International (ESCI) to perform an evaluation of the three individual departments, as well as, provide recommendations on how the departments can improve their cooperation between each other.

The cooperative agreement between the fire departments to hire a consulting service is the latest collaboration between the departments. In the past the departments have consolidated their training programs and combined their calendars, which has allows recruits from one department to take a class from a different department and still receive the same training. The departments also formed the West Plains Fire Academy.

According to Medical Lake Fire Chief Jason Mayfield, the idea to hire a consulting service came after several meetings where the departments would meet and discuss better ways to improve their cooperation.

“Whenever it seemed like recommendations were made, more questions would be popping up,” Mayfield said. “The departments decided to bring in an outside source, which would have a non-biased professional opinion of how the departments are currently operating.”

Spokane Fire District 10 Deputy Chief Bob Ladd said his goal is to see what recommendations ESCI will provide that will help the departments serve citizens better.

Airway Heights fire chief Mitch Mezger said he thought the consulting service is a great thing and that he hopes the communities will be happy from increase of efficiency of service that comes from ESCI’s recommendation.

The departments formed committees between the three agencies and put out a request for qualifications bids and proposals. After receiving answers from a couple of services, Mayfield said they picked ESCI because the company came with a lot of experience conducting assessments with fire departments. The committee not only followed up with references, but also interviewed ESCI personnel.

Mayfield said that Medical Lake Fire Department would receive the same service from ESCI as the other two departments.

“They seemed to have an understanding of what we are trying to accomplish,” Mayfield said.

According to Mayfield, $13,720 is what each department is paying for the initial study. There may be some additional costs with further recommendations.

Medical Lake approved the agreement at the Jan. 6 city council meeting. The agreement was presented at the Jan. 13 Airway Heights City Council Study Session. Mayor Patrick Rushing said the proposal was a good thing.

“It’s a long way from where we’ve been in the past,” Rushing said.

The first step of the study would begin after ESCI sends a letter with a list of the documents they need from each department. Once they have compiled information from the documents they received, ESCI will come out to visit each fire department and interview department personnel, city administration, city council and citizens to “get a feel for where the department is on every level,” according to Mayfield.

ESCI will send a draft to the departments. After the departments review the draft and send it back to ESCI, the consultants will complete a report, complete with recommendations for improvement in each department.

“Some things will be very simple that we can implement right now that won’t have any cost,” Mayfield said. “It could just be better ways of tailoring our resources, our budget or how we deploy our trucks on call.”

Mayfield added that the report would also contain recommendations for more defined cooperative services between the three departments, which could include a type of merger or consolidation.

Once they get the recommendations from ESCI, the departments will see which improvements they could implement at first. Cast of “Perfect Wedding”If there are any recommendations that would result in major changes, the department will meet with city officials and the other departments to see which ones they should pursue.

On a personal note, Mayfield said ESCI’s report would help him plan the future of the Medical Lake Fire Department.

“I’ve been here for 15 years and worked under four different fire chiefs and each of my predecessors has had a different idea of where the fire department should go in the future,” Mayfield said. “I’m just trying to make sure any direction I take are based in fact and not based on my own opinions or desires.”

Al Stover can be reached at al@cheneyfreepress.com.

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