The Riverside Fire Authority (RFA) experienced a 17% increase in calls for service in 2022, with a total of 4,742 calls, surpassing the previous record of 4,404 calls in 2021, according to a news release.
The growing population across northern Lewis County, including the city of Centralia, is attributed to the rise in calls.
RFA responded to a high number of calls due to the rise of new residents, jobs, educational programs and businesses in the area, adding to the demand for emergency response. New housing developments, both single-family and apartments, have also contributed to the increase in calls. The majority of RFA responses, 78%, are for medical care.
The long periods of seasonal dryness in Lewis County have led to an increase in calls for summer-related fires, according to the release. A shortage of affordable housing units has also led to a rise in fires in spaces being used as temporary housing. RFA's daily call volume has increased 40% since its formation in 2008 and has seen overlapping calls, leading to delays for callers who need service but have no immediate threat to life or property.
RFA follows four emergency preparedness best practices: to prevent harm, prepare for moderate impacts, respond efficiently and restore full levels.
The data collected from calls helps RFA focus on the best use of resources in each area, according to the news release. For example, the high number of falls among local residents leads the state, and RFA is working with health care partners to prevent falls. Fire prevention is critical in maintaining personal and economic health in the community, according to RFA.
RFA and the Lewis County 911 center are reviewing the 2022 calls to find ways to reduce overlapping calls, demand on RFA resources and waiting times for callers. This review may support the launch of the Community Assistance Referral and Education Services (CARES) program, connecting local residents with nonemergency or nonurgent medical needs to other medical care, low-cost medicine programs and social services, according to the news release.
RFA Chief Mike Kytta encourages the community to learn more about RFA's operations, governance, planning programs, volunteering, employment and the fire marshal. Information can be found on the RFA website at www.riversidefire.net.
Formed in 2008 by the merger of the City of Centralia Fire Department and Lewis County Fire District 12, RFA is a community-based fire department with 27 paid staff and 50 volunteers. The department provides fire and advanced life support emergency medical services to northern Lewis County, serving 40% of the county's population in 7% of the land mass and responding to an average of one-third of all fire and emergency medical calls in Lewis County.