Today will be the last day the Ammon Fire Department is run through the city of Ammon, though the staff hopes the transition will be a smooth one.
The fire department will be absorbed into the Bonneville County Fire Protection District, which oversees the fire operations for Iona and the majority of the county outside of Idaho Falls. The transition was initially announced by the city in April and was approved by Ammon City Council over the summer.
On the surface, little will change for Ammon residents when the changeover happens on Thursday. Deputy Fire Chief Keith Banda said the department will still be the primary responders for fires in the city, with the same staff on call for the department. The logos and colors for the fire department also will stay the same, apart from the addition of the fire district name, and Ammon will continue to own the physical fire stations.
“It was important for us and the City Council that we still feel like a major community partner for the city of Ammon, like we have been before,” Banda said.
The transition will fund the fire department’s full-time and certified on-call firefighters through the county fire levy, instead of competing with other city departments for a slice of the general fund. Bonneville County’s tax rate for the county fire district is at roughly the same level as the current budget for the Ammon Fire Department, so the transfer won’t result in a change in the tax rate for city residents.
The transfer also will help the department’s budget grow more easily as the city of Ammon continues to expand. Banda started with Ammon Fire Department in 2005 and has seen the city population more than double over that time, bringing with it a spike in the number of emergency calls.
“We’ve been at around 300 calls a year recently. Back when I started it was nowhere close to 300. It was probably a lot closer to 100 calls and that was with other types of emergency service calls,” Banda said.
Daniel Gubler, chairman of the Bonneville County Fire Protection District, said the arrangement also will help shore up some of the revenue sources for the district by adding Ammon’s residents.
“Every time one of the major cities expand and grows out into the fire district, we lose that revenue. A good chunk of that recent growth is now encompassed in that greater fire district,” Gubler said.
Previous attempts to have Ammon join the county district had been made in 2007 and 2019 but were rejected by the city council.
Ammon has partnered with the Fire Protection District and the Idaho Falls Fire Department on training exercises over the last few years, as well as working with them on wildfires like last year’s Sheep Fire. The city has sent trucks to assist with wildfires in California, Nevada and Utah during the 2020 fire season.
Early discussions for the transfer had highlighted the potential for Ammon to expand into an additional station, though that addition would likely be years away.