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Fire chief: Study reveals about half community lives outside ideal response zone

Approximately half of Boulder City’s residents live outside the recommended area for fire response, according to new data from the fire department.

Fire Chief Will Gray recently shared the results of a community risk assessment done by the department with members of City Council during a special workshop Nov. 17. He said it revealed some gaps in their coverage of the town. One of those is the travel time to calls. He said about half of the residents live outside of the recommended four-minute travel time from the fire department.

“(The) only thing that keeps me awake at night is that,” said Gray. “I know we have areas that we can’t sufficiently cover with our resources and that’s why I’m here is to hope that we can find a solution to fix that.”

Gray said the National Fire Protection Association recommends a four-minute travel time, and the probability of surviving a home fire or cardiac arrest is higher within that time frame. Currently, 6,900 residents and 3,065 homes are outside that area from the fire station on Elm Street.

Gray said the majority of the Lakeside, Del Prado and San Felipe neighborhoods fall outside of the four-minute travel time as does a small area near the airport.

“So it’s not a small thing,” he said. “It’s not affecting a small group. It’s affecting about half (of the residents).”

Mayor Kiernan McManus asked if living outside that zone meant it was unsafe for those residents or if they were at risk.

“They’re at increased risk. … When we look at our NFPA statistics … it would say if you live within that four minutes, you have a better chance of a successful outcome than if you live outside of it,” Gray said. “I will say if you live 10, 12 minutes away and you have a cardiac arrest, that’s a bad situation.”

“Everybody has to look at what’s important to them and realize that the further away I get from that service, the more risk I’m assuming where I’m choosing to live,” said McManus.

He also said the four-minute travel time is more of an ideal and living outside of it doesn’t mean someone is living under life-threatening conditions.

“It’s just that you’re not within the ideal range and there’s no community that really has everyone living within the ideal range,” he said. “I mean it’s just not possible.”

To help fill that gap in coverage, Gray said building a second fire station is an option as well as hiring more staff and purchasing more equipment.

One possible location is near the Boulder City Chamber of Commerce on Nevada Way and it would increase protection to 4,474 residents and 1,978 homes. The second possible location is near the Boulder City Library, 701 Adams Blvd., and it would increase protection to 3,521 residents and approximately 1,470 homes.

“Neither of the options that we have available would cover everything,” said Gray. “It’s not possible to get to four minutes by putting one station somewhere.”

He also said another location could be on Quartzite Road off of Nevada Way. He said that location had not been studied yet, but it could increase the number of people protected.

Councilwoman Sherri Jorgensen said she felt that having more than 3,000 homes outside of the four-minute travel time was “way too many.”

“That’s my personal opinion on that because I wouldn’t want to be one of those … homes.”

Gray also said hiring more staff would help. Three more firefighters/paramedics each day would increase daily staffing to at least 10 people and increased funding to the reserve program would also help the department grow. Additionally, purchasing another ambulance would help when two fire units are out at the same time.

“I’d be interested in finding out what the costs would be of some of the different options,” said Councilwoman Claudia Bridges. “You say 4,474 people are going to be better served. If 100 people are better served, that’s very important. I think a lot of people live where … they can afford to live. Not everyone has the option to move to a house that’s closer to a fire station.”

Council did not take any action at the presentation. Gray said he and his department would look at the numbers and possible costs of the different options and come back to council at a later date.

Contact reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear at cgoodyear@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow her on Twitter @csgoodyear.

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