Report: More firefighters, station needed

By BOB KOSLOW
Staff Writer

Last update: April 29, 2005

ORANGE CITY -- More firefighters and a second fire station would improve this city's fire/rescue response times that fail to meet a national standard, according to a consultant's report.
A fire department should answer 90 percent of its calls within six minutes, according to the National Fire Protection Association, but Orange City only achieves the six-minute standard two-thirds of the time. The six minutes includes dispatch, crew reaction and drive times.

"Options to improve performance must be considered, assuming the department's 66.7 percent ability to respond to incidents within six minutes is unacceptable," wrote Michael Ertz, former chief in Port Orange and hired by the city to review the Orange City fire department's operations, staffing and equipment.

Deltona dispatchers, who handle Orange City fire units, average 47 seconds before notifying fire crews. That is 13 seconds faster than the national 60-second standard.

Orange City's shortfall is in reaction time. It takes an average of 64 seconds for Orange City to get an engine manned and rolling. That is four seconds more than the 60-second standard.

Orange City's only station is not designed for a rapid reaction, Ertz writes. Crews and officers are scattered among three buildings. During two timed observations in February, the officer took up to 80 seconds to respond from another building from where the trucks are housed.

Ertz recommends the city rebuild the station on North Holly Avenue. The estimated cost is $1.5 million.

Combining reaction and drive times, Orange City fails to meet the national five-minute standard more than 33 percent of the time, or one in three calls.

Building a second station at the south end of town, increasing staffing levels and working with Deltona to improve response times along the I-4 boundary are also recommended.

Calls in Orange City have increased 37 percent since 2000 to more than 3,000 last year with nine professional firefighters divided into three 24-hour shifts, a fire marshal and fire inspector. The chief and captain positions are vacant. There are 18 regular volunteers.

Ertz found the staffing inadequate for the high number of calls. City officials say the city's commercial areas increase the city's 7,000 population to more than 30,000 during the day, including shoppers and employees.

"The report covers a lot of what the former chief said from a different angle," Mayor Ted Erwin said. "I can agree on some of the organizational items, but the rebuilding of the station and building a new one requires a lot of discussion. I may be in the minority, but I think it's time we get serious about looking regionally."

The report will be the subject of a 6 p.m. May 10 City Council workshop.