WSU’s 83-year tradition of operating its own fire department will end this year at the end of spring semester.

The WSU fire station, will be turned into a student-run EMS facility only. Also, the Pullman fire station located on North Grand Avenue, which currently serves as a reserve-only station, will be converted into a fully-staffed, non-reserve station at the same time.

“This change will result in both of the city’s fire stations being fully staffed with professional firefighters and paramedics,” said Fire Chief Pat Wilkins.

The ability to close the fire station on campus was facilitated by the 2001 joint fire services agreement between the city and the university that made Wilkins chief of both Pullman and WSU fire departments. In the agreement, the two departments agreed to share their resources.

“The city and the university are confident that this change in delivery of fire services will be of benefit to the campus community and the residents of Pullman,” said Richard Heath, WSU associate vice president for Business Affairs. “The need for fire services located on campus has decreased over the years as the university has been aggressive in building new buildings and retrofitting older ones with up-to-date fire suppression systems designed to lessen the risk of a major on-campus fire.”

Wilkins said the student firefighters currently residing at the campus fire station, located across from the Compton Union Building, will still have a presence in the station to provide basic life support as EMTs, but will no longer act as firefighters at that location.

Moving fire engines from the current WSU Fire Department station, which sits in a congested area on campus, will help with response times as well, Wilkins said.

“The traffic congestion is detrimental,” he said. “It’s like a mass wall of humanity at certain times during the day.”

The increase in staff at the North Grand Avenue station is intended to better serve the north end of the city as well as the campus.

“We’re taking all of our resources and putting them in one area,” Wilkins said. “It ends up being a better product to our community as a service.”

The WSU Fire Department is one of only seven university-run fire departments in the country, and the only one in Washington.

The WSU Fire Department has grown over the years. According to an article by Pat Caraher in the winter 2003-2004 issue of Washington State Magazine, the department

* was established in 1922, when WSU was still Washington State College

* began with nine student firefighters

* was equipped with only a fire cart and a metal shed connected to College Hall

* acquired its first fire truck and station, located where Daggy Hall is today, in 1925

* built the current campus fire station, located across from the CUB, in 1962

* responded to a 1970 arson fire in Rogers Field, where Martin Stadium is currently located, that destroyed 10,000 seats and caused $300,000 in damage. The fire demonstrated a need for more firefighters.

The station now operates two pumpers, two ambulances, one utility van and one utility car. The ambulances will remain on campus.

The four professional WSU firefighters working at the campus station were offered the opportunity to become Pullman firefighters.