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Sun Valley Firefighter of the Year Benefits from Workforce Housing
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Friday, December 30, 2022
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

North Blaine County’s Firefighter of the Year took a big pay cut to move back to the Wood River Valley where he grew up.

Ricky Williams might not have been able to make the move had he not been able to secure on-site housing at the Greenhorn Fire Station.

Now, he has only to walk 50 feet from the home he shares with his wife Lori to the office—the fire station  housing shiny red firetrucks. The proximity is especially valuable when the fire alarm sounds, alerting firefighters to a house fire in mid-valley or a wildland fire up north.

Williams, who grew up in the Wood River Valley, started working for the Ketchum Fire Department in 2006. A few years later he was lured away to Phoenix, Ariz., where he met and married his wife Lori.

But, after 10 years, they desperately wanted to move back to the Sun Valley area for the better quality of life the area provided, including its fly fishing, hunting, hiking, biking and skiing. Two years ago, they took the plunge and sold their house, deciding they could live in their camper if soaring rents made it prohibitive to secure other housing.

Fortunately, a living space at Greenhorn Fire Station south of Ketchum was available.

Fire Chief Rich Bauer said Williams was able to jump in and share the vast expertise he learned as a firefighter and paramedic

“He gained more experience fighting fires in Phoenix than anyone could get here in a lifetime,” Bauer said. “He was instrumental in knocking down a house fire last week with what he knew—his knowledge is endless. One of the things he’s so good at is forcible entry—he’s taught all the guys those skills.”

Williams was chosen by an anonymous vote of his peers, who praised his leadership, dedications and skill set.

“He’s just a good guy, a great guy,” said Bauer. “He’s part of the leadership at the fire department, and he’s so eager to teach others.”

Williams, in turn, wants to ensure that other firefighters and paramedics who want to live here can have the same opportunity he and his wife did. That’s why he’s working to raise money to place eight units of prefabricated housing and an eight-bay garage east of the Greenhorn Fire Station on a two-acre parcel of land leased from the Idaho Transportation Department for $1 a year.

“I meet many people who would love to live and work here. They all say they simply can’t afford to,” Williams said. “Even though I grew up here, I probably wouldn’t be here except for the foresight and leadership of Sun Valley and the North Blaine County Fire District. Over the years they have invested in housing to ensure staff would be available quickly for emergency response. It’s why I am dedicating time to help raise funds for future housing at Greenhorn.”

The North Blaine County Fire District had hoped to place four 840-square-foot homes on the property in November, but the approval process with the county took longer than expected. That may have turned out for the best, Bauer said, since heavy snow began falling in early November and would have made  placement more difficult.

Now, it’s hoped the eight units can be delivered and ready for occupancy by the summer of 2023 with groundbreaking taking place in spring.

“It is critical that our first responders live close by in order to be there quickly when we need them,” said Jed Gray, chair of the North Blaine County Fire District.

The estimated cost of the project is $3.2 million. So afar $850,000 has been raised to match the $950,000 contributed by the City of Sun Valley, Blaine County and the North Blaine County Fire District. The more funds raised, the lower the rents will be for the first responders who live there.

Donations can be made through the Spur Community Foundation by credit card via tinyurl.com/GreenhornHousing. Or, by check payable to “Spur Community Foundation,” with Greenhorn Housing noted on the memo field, and mailed to: PO Box 6184, Ketchum, ID 83340. They also can be made by ACH, wire, or public securities by calling Spur at 208-450-2600.

DID YOU KNOW?

While Ricky Williams was honored as Firefighter of the Year among Sun Valley and North Blaine County firefighters, Travis McDaniel was named Ketchum Firefighter of the Year. McDaniel has been with the Ketchum Fire Department for three years and is now enrolled in paramedic school.

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