Staff Writer

Umatilla County Fire District 1 will soon operate its station on Diagonal Road and East Punkin Center Road all day, everyday.

The station, which will start operating full-time on March 1, 2017, will have two paid firefighter/paramedics and one resident intern at all times, said Chief Scott Stanton.

“The station is 31 years old, but this will be the first time it will be staffed 24/7, 365,” Stanton said. “We tried it before, but we didn’t have the staff.”

The district’s main station on South First Street in Hermiston is also staffed 24/7. The stations on Westland Road in Hermiston and West Coe Avenue in Stanfield are not, with staff working at them as needed.

The increase in hours for the second station was made possible when the new district was created earlier this year — the result of a merger between the fire departments of Hermiston and Stanfield, and the dissolution of those cities’ individual departments. The consolidation, which took effect July 1, resulted in a combined tax rate of $1.75 per $1,000 assessed property value for Hermiston and Stanfield residents.

The merger was expected to generate about $900,000, which would go toward new staff, replacing vehicles and toward staffing the Diagonal Road station. Stanton estimated that of those funds, about $625,000 would go toward staffing the station.

“That’s built into what we’re already paying for,” he said.

He said the inside of the building will need some minor capital improvements, likely totaling around $10,000.

“When you put people into a building full time, you need some upgrades,” he said. “There’s no phone or pager system, it needs some computers.”

The restructuring of the fire departments began in 2014 with an administrative merger, when Stanfield’s fire chief became the training chief for the Hermiston Fire Department.

“We didn’t really gain any people with the administrative merger,” Stanton said. “We also took over the transportation service in Umatilla, and with that we hired about three.” He said the department has had to hire about six new employees to staff the new station — and those employees will attend fire academy in February.

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