Thirteen new fire stations will be built in the East Valley in the next three years, but in the meantime residents living on the outskirts should keep their fingers crossed that no emergency arrives.
In some areas of the East Valley, it can take as long as 12 minutes for firefighters and paramedics to reach residents’ homes.
In fact, the Valley is growing so fast, statistics show fire departments get to emergencies within four minutes only 50 percent to 67 percent of the time. Fire departments use four to six minutes as a benchmark to get to an emergency since brain cells begin to die at four minutes because of lack of oxygen.
"You can never catch up with the growth," said Gilbert assistant fire chief Jim Jobusch. "There are always going to be areas of town where we can’t meet our goals in terms of response times because the stations aren’t close enough."
Still, fire departments and city planners are trying to predict where new developments will spring up so they can plan future fire stations.
Mesa, Gilbert and Scottsdale each have three fire stations under construction or on the drawing board. Chandler has two in the works, and Tempe’s newest fire station is set to open Aug. 1.
Mesa deputy chief Mary Cameli said her department’s goal is to get to 90 percent of all emergencies within four minutes by 2006.
Now, Mesa firefighters get to their calls within four minutes 67 percent of the time.
"We’re doing the best we can, but when we respond to the outlying areas, it affects our overall average," Cameli said. "It’s when you live in a concentrated area you’re going to see the two- to threeminute response times."
Tempe is an example of that. Because Tempe can’t expand geographically, residents can generally expect a response time within four minutes. That’s based on response statistics and subtracting preparation times that Tempe includes in its calculations that other cities don’t.
Residents living on the outskirts of the expanding communities of Apache Junction, Gilbert, Mesa, Chandler and Scottsdale aren’t as lucky.
Jobusch said residents living near Riggs Road in Gilbert can experience a 10 to 12 minute response time, and statistics show people living near East Kings Ranch Road in Apache Junction wait an average of six minutes for help.
Anyone living in north Scottsdale, Fountain Hills and Cave Creek can expect a response time in the sixminute range, said Rural/ Metro spokesman Mike Clark. Many living near Station 810 at Miller and Thomas roads, however, saw help within three minutes last year.
Chandler firefighters don’t keep track of response times by stations, but officials said the average response time for the city last year was four minutes, 23 seconds.