Jan. 29—SOAP LAKE — Grant County Fire District 7 responded to more incidents in less time in 2023 compared to the year before, according to the district's annual report. GCFD 7 also made strides in equipment and volunteer staffing, according to the district's annual report, released this month. GCFD 7 covers Soap Lake, Coulee City, the area along SR 17 between the two towns and the High Hill area east of the coulee, according to county records.
2023 saw about a 25% increase in calls to GCFD 7 compared to 2022, according to the report, answering 611 calls versus 2022's 488. The vast majority of those calls, 416 of them, were non-vehicle accident-related emergency medical service calls. Responders also handled 15 vehicle accidents with injuries and 21 brush or grass fires.
Despite the increased workload, GCFD 7 responded 24% more quickly in 2023 than 2022, the report said, speeding up from an average time of 10.29 minutes to 7.84 minutes. The National Fire Protection Association's response time minimum for urban areas, defined as areas with a population density of more than 1,000 people per square mile, is nine minutes. This includes the city of Soap Lake, which has a density of 1,043 people per square mile, according to the 2020 U.S. Census. For suburban and rural areas, the NFPA minimum is 10 and 14 minutes respectively.
The district's equipment had an average age of 43 years at the beginning of 2023, according to the report. Through the Department of Natural Resources' federal excess property program and some grants and low-interest loans, the district added three fire engines, two brush engines, an ambulance, a tactical tender and a 4X4 command unit. By the end of 2023, the equipment's average age was 23.
The district was also active in local communities, according to the report. GCFD 7 performed fire and EMS standby at many community events such as Fourth of July activities, fall festivals, and car shows. District EMS personnel performed stand-by at the Soap Lake High School football games free of charge to ensure medical personnel were available for competitive youth sports. District staff attended senior center events and luncheons, and Chief Christopher Baker hosted several events such as Tea with the Chief and meet-and-greets in the community to answer questions about Fire District 7 and to gain valuable relationships.
GCFD 7 started 2023 with 13 volunteers, according to the report, and ended the year with 24. This is significant, Baker wrote in the report, because 65% of firefighters are volunteers.
"We have set a goal of 36 dedicated volunteers in the future and with the continued support of the community we will reach that goal," he wrote.