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Kuna Fire asks for new station, firefighters to keep pace with rising calls

Emergency call volumes have increased 72% for the Kuna Rural Fire District in the past 10 years.

BOISE, Idaho — The Kuna Rural Fire District is asking for a new station and six permanent firefighters to keep up with increased demand.

The additions will be up for vote in the November general election through a levy increase and a bond.

The fire district's population, which covers some areas outside of Kuna, is projected to increase 74% in the next 10 years. 

"It was a small, rural town. Everyone seemed to know each other," Fire Captain John Charlton said. "Now, there's a lot more people here, lot of traffic and a lot more calls for us."

Kuna Fire has one fire station and 15 firefighters, five per shift.

The station serves 34,000 residents and 110 square miles. Recommendations say that communities should have one fire station for every 10,000 people.

"It's crazy, we can't keep up with with that pace," Fire Chief TJ Lawrence said. "We haven't even been able to keep up with the pace for the past 10 years. We're definitely behind on our staffing model when it comes to providing service to this many people." 

With the booming population, emergency call volumes to the Kuna Rural Fire District have increased 72% in the past decade. 

The station sees about 2,000 emergency calls per year. Almost a quarter of those calls are overlapping, where multiple emergency calls come in at the same time. 

"The simultaneous calls that come in that come in have really hindered our ability to provide service," Lawrence said. "We'll be on a call, have another one come in. We could have three or four calls come in in an hour and we're not able to cover those calls."

When multiple calls come in at the same time, Kuna Fire gets help through a mutual aid agreement with other stations. However, those response times can take up to 17 minutes.

"It's almost like a letdown to us that we can't serve our citizens the way we should be able to serve them," Kuna firefighter/paramedic Matt Graham said. "We're here to help, it's not fair to them that they have to wait 17 minutes from our neighboring departments for help. That's why it's important for this bond and levy to pass, so we can get more resources here in town and provide a better service."

The Kuna Rural Fire District is funded through a property tax levy. They are asking voters for a levy increase to hire the six new firefighters. 

Capital projects, like the fire station, are funded through voter-approved bonds. 

The initiatives will need a supermajority to pass, since the levy increase would be permanent. 

The levy increase would cost the average homeowner $6.79 per month, or $81.45 per year. By paying for the station through a bond, the district said the annual cost for property owners will be lower than previous funding plans that voters have rejected. 

"We have tried to do a levy increase a few times now, it's been voted down each time," Lawrence said. "It's a supermajority so we've been close, but we didn't have the overall support going for it. So, the last time that we actually did receive a bond was 27 years ago, in 1995." 

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