Harrisburg Fire Chief Bryan Dunn has two words to describe the station’s growing response times to an underserved portion of the town’s fire district: “Totally unacceptable.”Increasing response times in the eastern part of the district were the first indicator that a third station was needed to adequately serve the growing area. The average response time there has been inching toward the 8-minute mark over the past five years.“Our goal is to meet 90 percent of emergency incidents in less than 4 minutes,” Dunn said. “And we’re meeting that goal in every area of the district, except there. The new station will alleviate that.”Those standards are set by the National Fire Protection Association, which breaks down areas in three categories – urban, suburban and rural – and can vary depending on whether it is a paid or a volunteer department. Response time standards also take into account the size of the service area and its population. The Town Council in March voted unanimously to move forward with the design and construction of a new station at Pembrook and Rocky River roads, near Pharr Mill Road and Stallings Road. Council members Rick Russo and David Isaacs were absent for the vote.The town’s land use plan indicates that the eastern portion of town will be a major growth area, Dunn said. “We’re definitely playing catch-up as far as response times go, but we’re certainly trying to plan for the future of development coming to that area,” Dunn said. “What prompted the town to move forward on it was the town of Harrisburg annexing the Canterfield neighborhood on Pharr Mill Road.” Consistent development growth, increasing response times and the need to provide service to the annexed neighborhood were driving forces behind the demand for building a new station, though the town purchased the for the station land in 2005.The town expects to break ground this month on the estimated $1.5 million structure. It’s expected to be complete by January. The fire department will reorganize existing equipment and personnel to fill the new 9,000-square-foot space, nearly 2,000 square feet bigger than Station No. 1 on Morehead Road.Dunn said a growing tax base will help fund the project, and the town doesn’t expect to need a tax increase to pay for it.“You always want more, but we recognized we had a budget to stay within, and we think it’s going to be a functional and efficient building for the firefighters,” Dunn said.The fire department also applied for a federal grant to hire three more firefighters, Dunn said, and it will look to council as future growth dictates the need for more personnel. An essential piece of infrastructure, the new station also will make the town more inviting to future developers and residents, he said.Councilman Phil Cowherd said the new station represents the town’s commitment to providing its services equally throughout the town. He said the project was a direct response to rapid growth in and near Harrisburg.Mayor Pro-Tem Chad Baucom said one of the town’s goals is to prioritize public safety issues, and reducing response times is one of those. “When there is an emergency, every second counts, and providing additional support to residents of the eastern part of the town benefits each and every one of us,” Baucom said.
Thursday, Apr. 10, 2014
New Harrisburg fire station could cut 8-minute response time in half
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