Driving to Chandler Fire Station No. 7, the view is of hay stacks and wide fields — and rows of houses under construction.
The station opened in January in the far southeast corner of the city, on Gilbert Road just south of Riggs Road, "because this area has grown so much over the last year," said fire Capt. Dan McFarland, adding that the growth even caught him by surprise. "I drove down here and thought, ‘Whoa!’ "
McFarland, one of 12 working at the new station, is preparing for this weekend’s grand opening of the $2.1 million, 8,080 square-foot station.
Rapid residential development among the last farm fields in southeast Chandler has prompted much of the growth in the city’s fire department, said Fire Chief Jim Roxburgh.
Station No. 6 opened near Ray and McQueen roads less than a year ago.
And in a couple of weeks, the city will hold a public meeting to review the preliminary designs for Station No. 8, planned to open in about a year on Frye Road between Alma School Road and Arizona Avenue. In addition, a new building for the fire administration staff is planned to open by 2006, Roxburgh said.
Fire administration offices are now connected to the police department. The planned 9,000 square-foot building has a $2.3 million budget and will offer much more room, Roxburgh said.
Chandler expects to have 12 stations when the city’s growth tapers off. No. 8 will be an "in-fill" station, opening in an older part of the community to lighten the workload of stations around it that are seeing a lot of new homes and businesses open in the area, Roxburgh said. It has a budget of about $2.5 million, he added.
The goal is to keep response times low, Roxburgh said. Average response time to calls was seven minutes for southeast Chandler, but that has been cut in half since Station No. 7 opened with a temporary building in early 2002, McFarland said. The average response time for the city is four minutes and 15 seconds.
"Prior to us moving down here, Chandler fire units were not covering this area," he said. "The closest units came from Sun Lakes."
For now, four firefighters work one shift, but the city built the station to hold eight employees per shift when they’re needed, he added.
McFarland said, "We’re thinking ahead because we know this area is going to grow more than it already has."
Grand opening of Fire Station No. 7
When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today
Where: 6200 S. Gilbert Road
What: design review for planned Fire Station No. 8
When: 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 1
Where: San Marcos Elementary School, 451 W. Frye Road