During the February 16 meeting of the Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee, consultant for Citygate Associates, Stewart Gary, presented a study that examined the city's fire department response capabilities.
Among the major findings, the study revealed that the City was ten fire stations, four ladder companies, and two chiefs short.
Recommendations to improve service levels included assuring that multiple units respond to serious emergencies in under 11 minutes, updating the alert systems in fire stations, and implementing fast-response squads — two-person fire and paramedic crews that offer more than basic emergency medical services in sparsely populated areas.
Councilmember Lorie Zapf had some other suggestions, one of which included favoring the fast-response squads over adding more engines because, according to Citygate's study, approximately 80 percent of 911 calls are medical and 3.5 percent are fire-related.
"I'm looking for ways to use our resources more effectively, doing business in a different way," said Zapf. "The way we are [running] our fire department is a throwback."
Zapf suggested restoring service at the 13 browned-out stations but reducing staff levels during non-peak hours. "Fully staffing both fire engines in the middle of the night makes no sense to me," Zapf said.
Fire chief Javier Mainar didn't agree. "The majority of deaths that occur in America occur in single-family dwellings at nighttime when people are sleeping and most vulnerable. To suggest turning off those resources simply because the call volume is low does not make for good policy.... Fires may only be three-and-a-half percent of calls, but for that three-and-a-half percent, that call is the only one that matters to them."