IDAHO FALLS – There are big changes coming to the fire protection services in Idaho Falls. The Idaho Falls Fire Department will be hiring 12 new firefighters to staff a new station, and the department will be leaving the airport fire station and hiring an out-of-state contractor to run it.
Some of the changes were the result of a SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant through the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The department successfully applied for the grant earlier this year, and it will provide funds to pay for the first three years of wages and benefits for the 12 new firefighters.
The firefighters will be working at the new southern station located at 370 East 65th South. The building was previously a Bonneville County Fire Protection District fire station. It is set to open in spring 2023.
“Our fire department professionals work smart. They put tremendous effort into managing taxpayer dollars wisely. They are always looking for other funding sources to help pay for equipment and operations. The SAFER grant is a great example,” said Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper in a news release. “This grant will allow our fire department to continue to provide its top-level fire and EMS service as our community faces growth, without putting additional burdens on local property taxpayers.”
According to the IFFD, they have been experiencing a steady increase in calls for service over the past four years, averaging 1,000 more calls every year. In 2021, those numbers shot up with 3,000 more calls compared to the previous year. In total, the fire department responded to 17,230 calls in 2021.
“While we were experiencing unprecedented growth and calls for service kept trending upward at a record-breaking pace, our staffing levels remained the same,” said IFFD Fire Chief Duane Nelson. “Knowing that demand was quickly outpacing our capabilities and would be unsustainable for our personnel, we put our heads together and started working on finding creative solutions that would sustain this community well into the future.”
In October, the fire department will begin preparations to get the southern station fully operational. The fire engine and ambulance that were operating out of the airport station will be relocated to the southern station before contractor Pro-Tec Fire Services from Wisconsin takes over operations at the airport.
“To say that I’m incredibly proud and honored to have the privilege to lead such an amazing department would be an understatement,” Nelson said. “All of this was made possible by the tremendous support of our community and the hard work, dedication and creative problem solving of the men and women of the IFFD, as well as city directors, City Council and Mayor Rebecca Casper.”
The IFFD is currently looking to hire the new firefighters. The department will go through the standard hiring process as outlined on its website.
Potential applicants are encouraged to sign up for job alerts through the city of Idaho Falls’ Human Resource Department.
Idaho Falls Regional Airport contracting with new fire service
As the fire department moves out of the Idaho Falls Airport, contractor Pro-Tec Fire Services will take over daily operations. The city of Idaho Falls hired the contractor in July, and they begin operations in October.
“Most people won’t really notice a difference. There will be fire service at the airport … but this just frees up some resources to help staff in the city,” says city spokesman Eric Grossarth. “It’s really a win-win for everybody.”
While IFFD will continue to work with the airport and the new contractor to provide airport firefighting training and operational response as needed during emergencies, the fire department will no longer have personnel or equipment permanently stationed on airport property.
“We have had personnel stationed out at the airport to be ready to respond to airport emergencies. Since the airport has expanded and they needed additional services, they have contracted that out now,” says IFFD spokeswoman Kerry Hammon. “The personnel, the engine, ambulance and equipment that belong to the city of Idaho Falls, will be moved to the southern station that we just purchased from the Bonneville Fire County Protection District.”