Walker Co. reducing emergency response times with new 24/7 fire stations
Three new 24-hour stations were added last month. Since then, officials say response times have been cut in half.
Twenty minutes: that is how long it used to take for Walker County residents to get help in an emergency.
It's why the county's fire department decided to add two new 24-hour fire stations.
Walker County has 19 fire stations. At one point the majority of them were filled with volunteers firefighters.
The problem was those volunteers could not respond to calls 24/7 because they weren't always available. However, that's no longer an issue.
“We're getting on scene quicker, we're making an impact on the citizens,” says Deputy Chief Nathan Farrow.
Deputy Chief Nathan Farrow says every second counts during an emergency. But he says his team wasn't responding to calls fast enough.
So far this year the fire department has received more than 4,000 calls. That's about 350 calls a month.
“We started out with three career stations,” Chief Farrow says. “In July we went to the fourth career station.”
“We were still spread out,” Farrow says. “There were some areas that were uncovered and with the new plan we now have six stations that are staffed 24 hours a day.”
Three new 24-hour stations were added last month. Since then, Farrow says response times have been cut in half.
Cane Creek, Cove Road and Villanow averaged double-digit response times.
“Our average truck was coming out of LaFayette going all the way over to Villanow and if you look at the numbers, our response time to Villanow was around 20 minutes before we added a station and we reduced that now to just under eight minutes.”
Hiring and training more full-time firefighters also helped.
Farrow says the county has 50 full time firefighters and 40 volunteers. But keeping volunteer positions filled is difficult.
“Nationally, volunteer firefighters are on the decline,” Chief Farrow says. “People are busy; they have lives so during the day our response was impacted by that.”
Battling flames is not an easy job, but, it is one that Walker County firefighters take personally.
“I have family in Walker County, so it means a lot to me that we're making that impact on the citizens,” Chief Farrow says.
Walker County also plans to develop automatic aid agreements with other nearby jurisdictions.
It will be another way to reduce response times.