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Invest now in firefighting equipment

My fellow citizens: the May 15 fire that destroyed two of Sunnyside's downtown businesses, and impacted several more, is proof that we need to equip our fire department with an aerial firefighting truck. It is imperative that we do it now.

Despite the excellent performance of our firefighters, they were overmatched by being under-equipped by the size of this fire. It was only through their skill in managing the disaster that a far larger one was prevented.

Four aerial fire units responded to Sunnyside's call for assistance on that Sunday morning. One was from Prosser, which currently has a population of about 5,100 residents. One was from Grandview that has a population of about 9,150 residents. The two others were from Yakima and West Valley.

The city of Sunnyside has a population of about 15,500. We have no aerial unit, despite the existence of the Harrison Heights apartments, the new high school, several large warehouses and the Darigold plant (which is in the county but could be annexed). We also have a municipal airport with a 3,500-foot runway, large enough for an aircraft that would require large firefighting equipment in the event of a crash.

For a community one-third the size of Sunnyside, and correspondingly two-thirds the size of Sunnyside to have that equipment and Sunnyside not, is illogical.

Those business owners who are contemplating new construction or expansion will consider other areas or communities based on the existing infrastructure. In this case the firefighting capability of the community.

This can't wait. The first step is to expand the fire department to the south, by purchasing the property that is for sale there. This is required to house the aerial fire truck, among other things. If that is our course (and I advise that it should it be), then I suggest that building a facility large enough to accommodate reasonable expansion for the next 15, if not 20 years, would be money well spent. I believe this is a case where "if you build it, they will come."

They may come slowly, but slowly is better than by bypassing our community, and its chances for growth and steady employment. This must be moved to the top of the priority list, and accomplished without delay.

Anyone old enough to recall the conflagration and destruction of the Planters Hotel, Liberty Theater, the Mojonniers Warehouse, the Chief Kamiakin school and the Andrus & Roberts Warehouse, I am sure would agree with me.

/s/ Douglas K. Garrison, Sunnyside

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