Grant allows for full-time staffing of fire department

Battalion Chief/Paramedic Brian Davenport, right, loads fire hose with firefighter/driver/operator/EMT Tim Langle at Antares Road Fire Station in Valle Vista. Courtesy

Battalion Chief/Paramedic Brian Davenport, right, loads fire hose with firefighter/driver/operator/EMT Tim Langle at Antares Road Fire Station in Valle Vista. Courtesy

With $948,825 in federal money, the Hualapai Valley Fire District will staff Station No. 6 full time.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant to the HVFD to hire nine additional full-time emergency medical technician or paramedic firefighters.

"The nine new personnel will be hired within the next 90 days, and will be assigned to the Antares Road fire station in Valle Vista," Fire Chief Wayne L. Eder said. "Firefighters will work 24-hour shifts, with a total of three personnel on duty at a time."

The station currently is served by full-time firefighters working 12-hour shifts seven days a week with volunteer firefighters covering at night. This schedule has been in place since November.

With the additions, the total staffing available in Valle Vista will be six at a time with one duty chief, two firefighters at Station No. 5 and three firefighters at Station No. 6.

As part of the grant, FEMA will pay 90 percent of the firefighters' salary the first year, 80 percent the second year, 70 percent the third year and 50 percent the fourth year. When the fifth year arrives, the fire district will assume all responsibility for funding the salaries.

As part of the application process, the fire district had to insure future funding levels will be adequate to maintain the program after the grant expires, Eder said. With annexations in Valle Vista and Hackberry, the HVFD expects future tax funding - which usually takes more than a year to be received by the fire district - to cover the costs.

The firefighters will utilize protective clothing, self-contained breathing apparatus and an air compressor system to fill breathing air cylinders being purchased through a pending $116,000 grant.

"Grant funding is a major component of the success of the HVFD/VVFD merger," Eder said.

This isn't the first SAFER grant for the HVFD. In 2005, they received $600,000 to hire six full-time personnel for the Stockton Hill Road fire station. The HVFD annexed more than six square miles near the station to insure tax funding, Eder said.

"We are extremely blessed to have received two of the SAFER grants in the last three years, allowing us to hire additional firefighters that we may not have been able to afford for up to five years," Eder said.

Obtaining grants to cover expenses is part of the focus of the HVFD to improve services in the Valle Vista area and the northern parts of Kingman following the merger between the HVFD and Valle Vista Fire District in February 2007, Eder said.

Since the merger, the fire district has been awarded $1,381,808 in grants.

Another positive result of the merger is that the district lowered the tax levy rate in Valle Vista to $2.88 per assessed $100 from $3.

Other improvements to the district include the remodel of Station No. 6 to accommodate paid firefighters.

Station No. 6 isn't the only station expected to receive improvements in Valle Vista.

Six full-time personnel were assigned in February 2007 to Station No. 5 on Concho Drive. With two personnel on duty all the time, this is a shift from the full-time and on-call personnel system used previously.

HVFD also committed to staffing this station with at least one paramedic or EMT all the time, resulting in improved medical response from this fire station, Eder said. A former fire engine was outfitted as a paramedic engine company for approximately $25,000 to improve response capabilities to a variety of emergencies.

With $125,000 from Homeland Security, the HVFD has scheduled construction of the new dispatch center to begin this summer at Station No. 5.

"One major project, still underway, is the assignment of an ambulance in Valle Vista to serve the Valle Vista, Hackberry and Truxton areas," Eder said. "This project has been a priority for a long time, and if all goes according to plan, should be in service in 2008."

Beyond new ambulance service, Hackberry will also see a new fire station built this year.

"HVFD is proud of the accomplishments made in Valle Vista as a result of the 2007 merger," Eder said. "We anticipate similar improvements in Chloride and Truxton as we move to complete the consolidation of those departments with Hualapai Valley this year."