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Fire Chief: Bannock County Faces Ambulance Crisis

Bannock County is in a crisis. It doesn’t have enough ambulances to cover all the 911 calls, but the fix to that problem could mean more property tax.

For comparison, Bonneville County has one ambulance for every 12,000 people. Bannock County has one for every 21,00, and that’s counting volunteer crews that don’t have any paramedics.

“We are running out of resources. We just do not have the available number of personnel to cover all the calls anymore,? Pocatello Fire Chief Steve Irwin said.

At their busiest, ambulances in Bannock County aren’t able to get everywhere they’re needed.

“We’re to the point right now that we have started stacking calls. Which means that you might not have anybody available to come to your call when you call 911,? Irwin said.

Some calls will have to wait until another ambulance is finished. That could take 30 or 40 minutes, or even longer.

“We’re going to get one of those life threatening calls one of these days and we’re not going to have anybody to respond,? Irwin said.

A proposed levy for a new ambulance made it onto the ballot last year, but came up short of the 2/3 vote it needed.

“Any time you raise people’s property taxes it’s a bitter pill to swallow. Taxes are tough, and people are living in a hard economic time,? Bannock County Commissioner Howard Manwaring said.

Voters will decide on the property tax increase again this year. If it’s approved, it will be another $15 on every $100,000 of property, unless voters decide the levy just isn’t worth it.

“But they’ll think it is when they’re the one waiting in line for an hour for an ambulance,? Manwaring said.

Irwin said it’s only a matter of time before the short-staffed situation turns into tragedy.

“We’re going to have a major event happen here. Either a fire that we can’t get firemen to, or we’re going to have an actual emergency where someone’s going to lose their life because we didn’t have the appropriate personnel to send to their emergency,? Irwin said.

Even if the levy is passed in November. The county won’t see any money from it until 2013, and the ambulance crews will have to make do until then.

Bannock county will hold a town hall meeting about the ambulance problem and proposed levy at the County Courthouse on Aug. 15 at 7 p.m.

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