It’s been 11 years since Columbia built a new fire station. That’s about to
| Columbia Daily Tribune
How long, on average, does it take a a fire truck in Columbia to respond to an emergency? The city’s fire department likes to keep it under five minutes.
It’s been 11 years, though, since Columbia built a new fire station. There is a plan to change that.
As the population of Columbia grows, so does the need for an additional two fire stations, city officials say. Station 10 is planned for the eastern part of the city, while Station 11 will serve the southwest portion.
“Calls for services have continued to go up, but we have remained fixed as far as the number of fire stations and the number of frontline trucks,” Assistant Fire Chief Brad Frazier said.
While the logical step would be to first find and purchase land for Station 10, that has not been the case, he said. Some of the first fund transfers happened in late 2018 as the 2019 fiscal year started.
“The council was able to move available (capital improvement) funds earmarked for Station 10 to the purchase of land for Station 11 because available land was found in the southwest portion of the community,” Frazier said.
When the property tax rate increased from 41 cents to 43 cents per $100 in assessed value in late 2018, that meant just about an additional $470,000 was added to the city’s capital improvement fund for the fire station construction.
The city, for the 2020 fiscal year, also transferred $1 million from the capital improvement sales tax fund to purchase land for the fire stations. Land was acquired by the city recently for about $350,000 for Station No. 11. It will be located on South Scott Boulevard near Montauk Court and north of West Route K.
Each station has a total construction budget of $2.5 million. Money for both was secured in the 2019 fiscal year. The fire department and city still are searching for appropriate land for the No. 10 station.
The fire department in 2018 conducted a community assessment, which identified the need for the two stations. The department used data from 2017 and found that the number of calls that effectively could be responded to in the eastern part of the city was 613. The southwest station number was 182.
The new stations would put the needed services closer to people, which would allow for the four-minute response time preferred by the department, as mutual aid from other stations would be on the way. The current configuration of stations means call response times can be outside the preferred four-minute window.
“When we spread things out geographically, then that call time — the name of the game is getting there quick,” Frazier said. “The biggest thing is we have to get there fast to save lives and property. That’s why this is so critical.”
Most stations in Columbia have one fire engine or similar truck. If one medical call comes in, one engine is sent. For a vehicle crash with injuries, two are sent. For a residential fire, six trucks are sent. Commercial fires require additional trucks.
Even though the new stations will have one truck each, that does not mean there is a reduction in services, Frazier said.
Station 11 likely will look similar to the No. 7 station on Green Meadows Circle. Interior layout and some features may be different, though. The city council still has to approve an architect before the next steps can move forward.
Based on previous construction projects, the likely timeline is securing an architect, then a design is made, the city receives…