High gasoline prices affecting local first responders

BENTON COUNTY, Wash. — Higher gasoline prices are impacting every driver, but the prices are also having a big impact on emergency services. Most of their vehicles run on diesel as well, which is running around a dollar higher than gas at the moment.

But when it comes to an emergency, Benton County Fire District 1 Fire Chief Lonnie Click summed up the reality of the situation:

“When somebody calls 911 and wants you to respond to their emergency, at that point in time…they don’t care how much gas costs,” he said.

Gas prices around the country continue to fly at record highs. Fire stations around the Tri-Cities are feeling the heat as they’ve been burning that fuel while putting fires out.

Chief Click said that he was prepared for the gasoline prices to increase, but not as much as it has.

“When we were preparing for our 2022 budget, we added 30% to our 2021 fuel cost, trying to be a little proactive, you know, and plan for the increase, but we didn’t know what it was going to be. And so far we’ve exceeded our 30% that we added to it,” Click said.

The large ladder trucks that the fire stations use need a lot more gas than the average SUV or sedan. Click said that they hold around 60 gallons, and the price of diesel over six dollars a gallon. The station is averaging over three hundred sixty dollars for a full tank of gasoline.

“Most vehicles get miles per gallon, and I think these get gallons per mile,” Click said. “They’re really thirsty, they like fuel. But, you know, the mileage is probably four or five miles to the gallon, is what they get. They’re not very economical, if you want to call it that.”

Traveling far to put out fires

On Monday, BCFD #1 assisted with the Byron Hill fire. They drove out to Prosser to help other fire crews on scene.

READ: Investigators determine Byron Hill fire was started by fireworks

“We took three fire trucks up there. Up there and back, you know that really, it’s double the price to go to Prosser and back today compared to what it was, you know, eighteen months ago,” said Click.

So far this season, Click said they haven’t seen too many fires. Wildland fire season hasn’t quite started yet—which is when they use the most gasoline.

Click said the Fire District prepared as much as it could, but he is keeping an eye on the budget to see if he needs to make more adjustments for fuel consumption.

“So far, we’re hanging in there and we’re watching our budget really, really close,” Click said. “And that’s all we can do.”

Gas prices have been falling slightly over the past few weeks. This could be an encouraging sign for the rest of summer, easing up on all drivers.

READ: Fire Station Open House and Dedication for BCFD #1