A hole exists in the level of fire service provided in the northeast section of the city, Scottsdale Fire Department officials say, one that has caused emergency response times to drop far below national standards for an area of nearly 30,000 residents.
Average emergency response times in a large portion of north Scottsdale are hovering around 8.5 to nine minutes, plenty of time to allow a house fire to double in size — and more than twice the time it would take to save someone having a heart attack from suffering brain damage.
The area north of Greenway Road, bordered by Shea Boulevard to the south, Loop 101 to the west and the Central Arizona Project Canal to the east is in dire need of a new station closer than the three stations currently serving the area, which range from 2.5 to four miles away, according to Bob Deleon, Scottsdale assistant fire chief. Deleon describes the area as “large and urban,” filled with a mix of homes and commercial buildings.
“We have crossed a threshold of where 80 percent of our response times are eight-and-a-half to nine minutes,” Deleon said.
“There’s a hole in our service level in that area caused by distance and not having a station in that area. It means there are at least 1,600 calls we’re not able to respond to in our target time of four minutes 90 percent of the time,” Deleon said.
There have been no fatalities caused by the department’s longer response times in that part of the city, according to Deleon, but he was quick to note that if someone suffers a heart attack, brain death starts to happen in four to six minutes, and the size of a fire doubles every two minutes.
“As we continued to get busier, sometimes the units we have up there are already busy and we have to rely on a station farther out to respond to an emergency,” Deleon said.
Between 2000 to 2005, that portion of the city saw an increase from 13,273 to 13,872 residential units and has projected that 14,470 units will be in place by 2010, according to Bob Higgins, Scottsdale senior planner. As recently as two years ago, the population of that area of north Scottsdale was 28,968, according to the Maricopa Association of Governments.
To help serve the area’s need, the city hopes to build a fire station at North 96th Street and Cactus Road within the next three years in hope of paring down those response times to the goal of four minutes 90 percent of the time set by the National Fire Protection Association, Deleon said.
The Scottsdale City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday to approve spending $1.2 million to buy two acres at the northwest corner of 96th Street and Cactus Road for a proposed 11,000-square-foot station that would contain one battalion company.
Carl Peterson, a spokesman for the National Fire Protection Association in Boston, suggested that in the meantime the city could beef up fire prevention activities in the area to educate the residents more, or have additional code enforcement work done.
“It sounds like the city is on the right track,” Peterson said. “They realized they have a problem and they’re trying to address it. They could be moving toward a situation where the cost of home insurance for the residents is high because of the slow response times, but that could be alleviated when a new station is built.”
A number of residents who attended two informational meetings about the station voiced concerns about the station being built close to their homes because of the noise and fear it would cause a drop in their property values.
However, there’s a large number of senior citizens who live in the nearby El Paseo Estates gated community and throughout the area who could need services from a nearby station, according to Deleon.
Joseph Pedzimas, 80, lives in the 9700 block of East Gelding Drive about a mile away from the proposed station. He said he would welcome it.
“If something happens, it would be easy for them to come over here,” Pedzimas said. “It’s a large area, and I think it would be advantageous for us to have a station. It’s a good idea, really.”