|Closing Fire Station No. 3 Could Bring Disaster|
Published: Friday, 14 September 2012 01:20
The ongoing debate regarding the staffi ng of the Alameda Fire Department (AFD) boils down to the single issue of response times.
As a life-long resident of Alameda and a former fi re chief of a city of similar size I can assure you that closing Fire Station No. 3 — probably the most centrally located station in Alameda — would spell disaster and would be literally playing with fi re. There is the real probability that fi re losses would dramatically increase and rescue efforts would be seriously hampered.
There is an old saying, "in a fi re, seconds count." The closing of Fire Station No. 3 or any other fi re station would add not only seconds, but minutes of normal response times. Fire expands exponentially and a single-room fi re that fi refi ghters would normally contain to a single room would spread to adjoining rooms. Granted this would not happen on a daily basis, but it only needs to happen once if a fi re involved your home, or your neighbor's.
The current distribution of fi re stations in Alameda is adequate enough to provide effective coverage.
An article in the Alameda Sun ("AFD Staffi ng as Compared to Similar Cities," Aug. 16) referred to fi re-station staffi ng in two cities of similar in size to Alameda, Redwood City and Mountain View. The article did not mention the fact that Redwood City and Mountain View (as well as other cities on the Peninsula) employ "automatic aid."
Automatic aid differs from the mutual aid that Alameda uses. Cities with automatic aid contracts allow fi re units in other cities to automatically respond to adjoining districts if their stations are closer to a fi re. Cities with mutual-aid contracts, on the other hand, use that aid on a as-needed basis. Mutual aid requires formal notifi cation for neighboring departments to respond.
These departments may not be available to respond depending on their situation at the time.
Because Alameda is an island, automatic aid is impractical. The nearest Oakland fi re station is too far away to be included as a fi rst responder. If Alameda decides to close fi re stations I seriously doubt that the city of Oakland, which has its own staffi ng problems, would be willing to subsidize Alameda's fi re service on a regular basis.
Many of the letter writers who support closing Fire Station No. 3 refer to the ICMA report and disregard the three other reports that do not support their position.
The best thing I can say about the ICMA report should its recommendations come to pass, is that it would make for some interesting reading while you are waiting for a fi re truck to respond to a fi re at your house.
Charlie Fasso served as the operations chief and interim fi re chief of the Menlo Park Fire District. He is now retired.