FIRE SERVICE FUTURE IN LAWMAKERS' HANDS
Blog and opinion piece by: Jen Barber, Estrella Resident
When a child is found at the bottom of a pool... seconds count.
When a loved one is in cardiac arrest... seconds count.
When you're having trouble breathing after a bee sting... seconds count.
Odds of survival increase when a patient has quick care. That quick care can be dependent on response times by fire departments and EMS crews.
For the past year, I've been following fire service demands and concerns being presented at Goodyear City Council meetings. Media resources have dwindled in the west Valley and I feel it important to hold our lawmakers accountable. Tragically, a friend's home burned down on Easter morning in Estrella which sparked my closer attention. And all the while, city council continues to approve construction in the Estrella community.
Portions of Estrella currently may not have the same luxury.
Goodyear's own data show fire/EMS crews can exceed national standard response times to the Montecito and CantaMia communities in Estrella. By national standards, the response times to the Easter morning house fire in Estrella was more than 3 minutes too late, as well. That's not acceptable.
After a series of work sessions and in an effort to determine when to build new stations and where they should be located, the City of Goodyear hired a foreign company, ORH, out of England to study local fire service demands.
I've read the 210 page report and believe it's important for residents to understand what's in it. Below is a brief synopsis. While long, it's an eye opening report. I'm most fascinated by the amount of growth about to occur in the southern portion of our All-America City. That expansive growth will create new and unique demands on city services.
The results of this study leave me wondering if it would it be better to build now and grow into the stations rather than wait another 8-10 years as recommended by ORH fire study. But, that decision now falls in the hands of our lawmakers.
Note: The Goodyear City Council will learn more about this fire station study during a work session on Monday, December 12th. You can attend the meeting or watch it online beginning at 4pm.
ABOUT ORH - A FOREIGN COMPANY STUDYING LOCAL NEEDS
ORH is the organization the City of Goodyear hired to conduct the study. It's a management consulting agency located in the United Kingdom. ORH is the trading name of Operational Research in Health Limited and registered as a company in England. Its website states, “We are committed to getting it right, for the good of our clients and the people who rely on their services.”
Regarding ORH, the City of Goodyear states:
ORH, Inc. began their work on the Goodyear Fire Station Study in late August 2016. They collected incident data; analyzed current demand; reviewed historical trends; made site visits and assessed other factors to formulate the recommendations found in the 2016 Fire Station Study. The report was finalized on the afternoon of Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016.
This company is no stranger to Arizona. In 2015, ORH completed its first USA contract for the Tempe Fire Medical Rescue Department. They looked at the distribution of fire stations. The 10-year plan resulted in recommending splitting an existing fire station into two new sites, adding a station in an area with high demand and development, and relocating stations “at the end of their functional viability.”
THE COST TO TAXPAYERS - YOU PAID FOR IT
Goodyear taxpayers spent roughly $53,000 as reported by KJZZ and reporter Mattew Casey.
If you recall, I reported through this Estrella Mountain Residents blog in July, city staff estimated the fire study would be completed by October and presented to council. But, if you look at our reporting, the need for a fire study was first discussed in February, 2016. And the discussion over whether Estrella was in need of a second fire station was presented in January 2016.
Council had a rough idea of where two new stations should be placed. So the questions was "why" hire someone to tell the city what it may have already known. This spring, Councilmember Bill Stipp asked Fire Chief Paul Luizzi what the real purpose would be of conducting a study.
To establish the proper location for stations. To establish the proper response and trigger threshold for construction of new stations. And really what we should be using now as our current response time, goals, benchmarks, and baselines, as we start to move forward and kinda see the city in a light of the way it’s being constructed now.” ~Goodyear Fire Chief Paul Luizzi
So, if we’ve already identified twice now what the locations are based on the projected growth… I’m having a difficult time seeing what a third study is going to tell us that we don’t already know regarding the location of the stations.” Councilmember Bill Stipp
Chief Luizzi defended the reason for the study.
Is it valuable looking at the current station locations and are they in the right spots? And our future plan’s growth - are we currently going in the right areas?” ~Goodyear Fire Chief Paul Luizzi
ESTRELLA FIRE STATION HISTORY
Estrella's Fire Station 182 - the station just near Estrella Mountain Church - started out as a temporary awning in the mid-1990s and was formally constructed and completed in 2003.
This additional station was originally planned for 2008.
With pressure on response times throughout the city, a work session held with Goodyear City Council in JANUARY 2016 - 11 months ago - was put on the agenda to again discuss the construction of a second fire station in Estrella... Fire Station 186.
EASTER MORNING HOUSE FIRE
Who could have predicted last spring - while council discussed the need for fire stations - what would eventually happen on Easter morning? A devastating house fire burned down a local family’s Estrella home and killed their pet dog, Daisy.
In June, we analyzed response times to the Easter house fire in Estrella and compared the numbers to the national standards.
The Easter morning fire in Estrella was within the current Estrella fire station’s boundaries. The Estrella house fire alarm was called at 2:10:21am on March 27, 2016. At the 5 minute mark, no one was on scene. In fact, the first personnel arrived at 8 minutes and 10 seconds after the alarm. According to the NFPA 1710 standard, that’s 3 minutes and 10 seconds late.
You can read more about that fire here.
Estrella Mountain Residents led the effort to pull the Estrella community together. Quickly the effort raised more than $20,000 in funds and donations for the Estrella family. They now wait for their home to be rebuilt.
MORE ROOFTOPS. MORE DEMANDS ON CALL VOLUME.
Despite the Estrella house fire and continued work session discussions, construction in Estrella has continued and been given the green light by council on more than one occasion.
Twice this summer, Goodyear City Council approved more rooftops to be built in Estrella despite concerns about fire service.
On August 18th, Goodyear City Council voted to approve a Preliminary Plat adding 44 homes on Estrella Parkway south of Polaris Drive. They say it was an administrative obligation and they had no other reason to reject it.
June 27th, Goodyear City Council approved the Lucero development going up near Star Tower. I attended the meeting and asked for a stipulation authorizing the construction of a fire station prior to approving this community to build. The request was rejected.
TRIGGERS, THRESHOLDS, AND FIRE SERVICE DEMANDS
In a blog, I requested the fire chief be given a second chance to discuss fire station needs after a debacle of a meeting in January. In February he got a second chance. Goodyear’s Chief Paul Luizzi, thoroughly explained the triggers and thresholds for building new fire stations through the city. He also discussed where the need currently is for improved fire service.
In 2015, 58% of the calls to Montecito and CantaMia communities were reportedly MORE than 8 minutes from Fire Station 182. Calls increased 34% from 2014 to 2015 with a total number of calls to these southern villages being 147 annually. More than half of those calls were for EMS, not fire.
Additionally, Buckeye Valley Fire District responded to 24 of these calls with a response time of 9 minutes and 58 seconds.
As shown here, the ORH fire study delivered to council this week backs up those numbers showing "hot spots" for response times.
This map shows current response times to portions of Montecito and CantaMia are over 11 minutes.
HOT SPOTS - WHERE THE DEMAND IS
The needs and types of calls vary throughout the city. Fire incidents take place more often in the central area of Goodyear, whereas EMS incidents are more common in the north. Hazmat has relatively few calls. And service calls are apparently high on W Indian School Road near the PebbleCreek Parkway.
MOST RESPONSES: STATION 184
BUSIEST STATIONS: 181 AND 183
Now, take a close look at this next blue graphic we found within the ORH fire study. In the south portion of Goodyear, average Effective Response Force or response times within 9 minutes are at 0%. The average ERF fire response time in the total area is at 17 minutes and 51 seconds.
The report states, "While the performance impacts are notable city-wide, the local effects can be more substantial. As the city grows to the west and the south, 'new' incidents in these areas would receive the longest response times."
HOW THE RESULTS WERE FORMED
You can download the entire report here.
ORH, the company which conducted the fire study, visited with the Goodyear Fire Department in the first week of the study. Our local fire department provided a "number of data sources for incident and response data." Then, ORH completed "a data cleansing exercise and discussed appropriate assumptions" with the Goodyear Fire Department.
ORH calibrated travel times against actual journeys and worked to ensure the simulation model was "reflective of the real-life behavior of" Goodyear Fire's vehicles. ORH also reports it completed "sensitivity modeling" around station locations taking into account future demand rates and automatic aid. In fact, ORH "assessed the responses by GFD vehicles into neighboring departments and vice-versa."
Key findings for Goodyear Fire Service city-wide are as follows:
These changes would deliver substantial improvements to response performance compared to a 'do nothing' position. ~ORH
ORH writes, "The demand increase is primarily associated with medical incidents, however Hazmat and Good Intent calls also increased." Service calls actually has decreased. The peak demand for service is reportedly between 10am and 10pm, with .85-.95 calls per hour. Incidents occuring at night are higher on weekends.
SOUTH GOODYEAR WILL EXPLODE IN GROWTH
ORH turned to MAG (Maricopa Association of Governments) data to project the future resident population.
... the resident population in Goodyear is expected to more than double from 2015 (77,800) to 2035 (167,360) ... The expected increases to population vary significantly between the reporting areas," ~ORH
MAG projections also show the number of people over age 65 will have tripled by the year 2035. Currently 15% of Goodyear's residents are over 65. In 2035, 21% of the population will be 65+. Why does this matter? Because this population has higher demands for EMS service. By 2035, "it is expected EMS demand in the South reporting area will have nearly reached the same level as the North..."
CHANGES TO CURRENT STATIONS
Fire Station 181 is located on the northwest corner of Yuma and Litchfield Roads in Goodyear. Because of environmental concerns, the building has been closed.
Given the building condition of Station 181, GFD identified a pressing need to evaluate potential options for relocating the station. ~ORH
Interestingly, Station 181 has the quickest average Crew Response time to all incidents in Goodyear.
One option for Station 181 includes just redistributing this station's vehicles to other stations.
Recommended: Relocating Fire Station 181 to Litchfield and Van Buren and have it operational by the year 2019. The optimal location is Litchfield and Van Buren Roads.
BUILDING OF NEW FIRE STATIONS IN WEST AND SOUTH GOODYEAR
In terms of planning, ORH assessed different options requiring the following changes to the station configuration:
The new sites in West and South Goodyear would provide substantial improvements to response times in their respective local areas." ~ORH Fire Study
OPTIMAL LOCATION FOR ESTRELLA'S FUTURE STATION
This optimal location actually moves the future station east of what Goodyear originally had projected. Remember, Goodyear planned on placing it at Willis and Rainbow Valley Roads. Now, it's being recommended for building at Willis along the Estrella Parkway.
SHOW ME THE MONEY
What’s been most disappointing is to find out the agreement to help fund a second fire station in Estrella was, as reported by our source, “Allowed to Expire.”
On June 27th, the Goodyear city manager mentioned the city was in negotiations with Newland and AV Homes to re-negotiate the developer agreement to get funding for station 186 in the works.... and it appears fire stations may be in the FY18 budget.
And talking to Bill Olsen [Newland Communities] this week, there has been an understanding that the bones of an agreement are in place. It can be argued some of those elements may or may not apply. The fact of the matter is one of the partners - if you will - back to the earlier agreement is no longer there. So CantaMia for example - is AV Homes - will be part of any discussions.” ~Brian Dalke, Goodyear City Manager, June 27, 2016
Of course, speculation on funding came before the results of this study. This study says to wait for a station in Estrella. What will lawmakers do?
THE PEOPLE WANT PARKS
In March, Goodyear City Council participated in a work session to discuss the FY17-26 Capital Improvement Program. About half way through the meeting, the presentation turned to "General Funded Programs - Projects Requests." City staff initially recommends fire stations be listed on deferral for future impact fees.
We added fire stations to your list simply because of your recent conversations just to put it up here and let you know it’s on our radar… but that we know the study is pending and we’ll wait for that project. ~Lauri Wingenroth, Budget and Research Manager
Priorities ahead of fire stations, listed at that meeting, included a recreation center and aquatics facility and ANOTHER STUDY TO THE TUNE OF $100,000 to find out where to place the train park.
CITY'S NEXT STEPS REGARDING FIRE SERVICE
THE CITY OF GOODYEAR SPELLS OUT NEXT STEPS AS:
Monday, Dec. 12 – Staff and consultant will present to City Council the results of the study at the Goodyear Municipal Complex Justice Center, 14455 W. Van Buren Street, in a public work session beginning at 4 p.m.
City Council will discuss the study, options, and next steps related to this data analysis. The 2016 Fire Station study is one of several pieces of data that will be considered through the capital improvement planning process to ensure that the short and long-term needs of the city are met through responsible planning and prioritization of all capital projects and new services.
Oct. – Dec. 2016
JEN'S TWO CENTS
Estrella's next fire station appears to be on hold for quite some time if this study's recommendation is taken into consideration. However, it's difficult to overlook response times, the projected growth patterns, and average age of future residents in south Goodyear. Is it prudent to wait?
Finally, candidate nomination papers for the Goodyear City Council 2017 spring election are due on November 14th. I previously advocated for more residents to run for council who live south of I-10. But, the fact is, all council members are to advocate for residents in all neighborhoods of the city. I do not give my vote to candidates simply based on where they live. All council members should be involved and concerned about what's happening throughout the city.
*My vote also will be based on who's been attending meetings and their knowledge base on important issues such as this. The budget will be discussed during the spring election season.
It will be several years before our city is split into districts.
Goodyear's City Charter states:
When the population reaches 150,000 as certified by a Decennial Census or a special census conducted for the purpose of determining the population of the City, the Mayor and Council shall divide the City into six (6) electoral districts not less than six (6) months after the certification of such census. Each electoral district shall be compact and contiguous, but shall be as nearly equal in population as possible.
I am hoping Monday night's presentation to council will be well run. If the presenter can get through the information without interruption, it would be easiest to understand and follow.
We'll be watching.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jennifer Barber is a Goodyear resident resident of almost 20 years and a retired broadcast news journalist. Involved in various nonprofit and city organizations since 2008, Barber has a unique view of what's happening in the West Valley of Arizona.