The response times at Scottsdale’s 15 fire stations can vary greatly, from 4 minutes and 42 seconds at Station 602 in the heart of Old Town to 8 minutes and 36 seconds at Station 616 in the farthest north reaches of the city.
Nearly two years after Scottsdale voters approved a $16.35 million public-safety bond, the city is renovating one fire station and replacing three others.
The projects should improve citywide response times.
Two of the stations are in south Scottsdale, and two are in the more sparsely populated north. Some of the stations date back 40 years, housed in trailers on hard-to-reach dirt roads without separate facilities for female firefighters.
“Every second that we can shave off in a response time gives someone a better chance to survive a heart attack.”
Sasha Weller, Scottsdale Firefighters Association
The fire department’s average response time citywide was 5 minutes and 36 seconds last fiscal year, according to city records. Executive Assistant Fire Chief Ryan Freeburg said he’d like to see the city shave six seconds off that average with the new stations.
Only one of the four stations being renovated or replaced beat the 5-minute-30-second-goal last fiscal year.
The response times at Scottsdale’s 15 stations can vary greatly, from 4 minutes and 42 seconds at Station 602 in the heart of Old Town to 8 minutes and 36 seconds at Station 616 in the farthest north reaches of the city.
Sasha Weller, president of the Scottsdale Firefighters Association, said that every city struggles to improve its emergency response times, whether for geographic reasons or financial ones.
“Every second that we can shave off in a response time gives someone a better chance to survive a heart attack,” he said.
What’s in the works
Here’s a look at the four fire stations, the planned upgrades, the cost and current response times:
1.) Station 603near Scottsdale Road and McDonald Drive was built in 1971 and will relocate near Indian Bend and Hayden roads.
Construction will begin late this year and should be completed in about a year. The project includes purchasing land and designing the facility, which will include an OSHA-certified decontamination area, office space, two bays for fire engines, equipment storage and crew quarters, and facilities at a cost of $6.75 million.
Current response time: 5 minutes and 48 seconds.
To move this project forward, the Scottsdale City Council in April settled a $2.5 million eminent domain lawsuit to acquire land for the new station.
2.) Station 605 at 75th Street and Shea Boulevard was built in 1983.
Renovations will begin in September and should finish in four months. The upgrades will focus on bathrooms, locker rooms, bunk rooms and the kitchen. It would also add personal equipment storage and an OSHA-compliant decontamination room at a total cost of $800,000.
Current response time: 5 minutes and 14 seconds.
3.) Station 613 near Pima and Jomax roads is a modular that’s been used for more than 20 years.
Construction of a new station southwest of Jomax and Hayden roads began in June and is scheduled to finish next summer. The new station will include crew quarters and facilities, office space, an OSHA-certified decontamination room, equipment storage and an engine bay at a cost of $5.1 million.
Current response time: 7 minutes and 38 seconds.
The station has been in a “temporary” 600 square-foot trailer for more than 20 years, Weller said.
4.) Station 616 near Cave Creek and Pima roads is a double-wide trailer serving the Desert Mountain community.
Construction of a new facility at 10905 E. Loving Tree Lane will begin in late 2018 and is scheduled to finish in about a year at a cost of $3.7 million.
Current response time: 8 minutes and 36 seconds.
‘In our business,’ seconds can make a difference
Firefighter Dave Martin puts a dish in the dishwasher at Scottsdale Fire Station 616 on Aug. 25, 2017. (Photo: Mark Henle/The Republic)
Freeburg said that improving response times wasn’t the sole reason for the station updates, but it plays a role.
The industry standard is 5 minutes and 20 seconds, according to the National Fire Protection Association’s most recent handbook.
Freeburg said the response time allows 80 seconds for responders to get dressed for a fire call and four minutes to drive to the scene.
“As stewards of public funding, we really have to balance what is the best use of the resources we have.”
Sasha Weller, Scottsdale Firefighters Association
“That four-minutes travel time is a gold standard,” Freeburg said. “We’re obviously not going to get everywhere in four minutes in a city that’s 183 square miles and 30 miles long. You’d have to build fire station on top of fire station on top of fire station, and that’s not fiscally responsible.”
Response times at the new or renovated stations are expected to improve, but Freeburg said it would be “premature to speculate or guess ” how much the times could improve because the renovation and construction could take a year or two to finish.
The improvement comes in part as fire stations will no longer be along dirt roads, allowing engines to move quicker.
By relocating stations, even shaving a few seconds off response times can go a long way, Weller said.
“We try to get as close to the industry standard as we possibly can,” Weller said. “As stewards of public funding, we really have to balance what is the best use of the resources we have.”
And Scottsdale has sought other solutions, as well.
Since 1985, Scottsdale has required homes to be outfitted with fire sprinklers and is the only city of its size in the country to do so, Weller said.
Even though sprinklers don’t provide the same protection as first responders, they’re an extra level of safety, he said.
Some of the stations being renovated and relocated have been in the same spot for more than 40 years — when firefighting was an exclusively male occupation, Weller said.
“When 603, for example, was built, there was not a single female firefighter in the fire department,” he said.
Today, the city has 117 firefighters and nine are women, according to spokeswoman Lori Schmidt.
Freeburg said the fire department updated facilities in its stations as female firefighters joined the force, from restrooms to sleeping accommodations.
The forthcoming renovations are going to ensure stations uniformly have several gender-neutral bathrooms that lock, he said.
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