Ventura Fire Station 4 Needed?

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Newsletter of the Ventura County Taxpayers Association- 11/27/13

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Last month VCTA contacted Ventura Fire Chief McPherson requesting information supporting an article in the Star that appeared to indicate improvements in citywide response time were related to reopening Station 4.

 

It was obvious response time would improve after reopening, but we wanted to understand how response time was impacted as a result of the temporary closing of Station 4.

CITYWIDE RESPONSE TIME INCREASED TWO (2) SECONDS DURING CLOSURE

The Chief provided response time by station for three periods of time: 12 months prior to closure of Station 4, the closure period and the 18 months since reopening.

FireStation4

According to the analysis, citywide response time of 5 minutes 10 seconds prior to the closure increased (got worse) by only 2 seconds while Station 4 was closed, then improved dramatically to 4 minute 41 seconds during the 18 months since reopening.

The improvement was partially due to reopening Station 4, but largely due to other factors.

According to the Chief the department proactively responded to the closing of Station 4 by increased awareness to response time, proper positioning of equipment and importantly the installation of traffic signal preemption devices on 70% of intersections in the city.  The managerial efforts clearly paid-off as response time improved at each of the remaining stations during and after the closure period.

Response time from mid 2009 (excluding the 18 months Station 4 was closed) to late 2013 decreased (got better) by 9% citywide but surprisingly only 6% at Station 4. 

Why did Station 4 (measured from before closing to now) fail to benefit from the same percentage improvement in response time all other stations in the city experienced?

Before closure Station 4 reported the slowest response time of any station and since reopening it continues to show the worst performance in the city. What is impacting this one station that is not occurring at any of the other stations?

CALL VOLUME – 60% HIGHER THAN OTHER CITIES

The Chief provided data on “Call Volume Comparison by City”- calls for Fire service per 1,000 residents.  The data compared call volume for Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley and Ventura for the three years 2010, 2011 and 2012.

The data brings to light an alarming fact – Ventura Fire receives 60% more calls per capita each year than the average of the three other reporting cities.  This statistic begs the question of why?

A city that experiences call volume 60% higher than other cities, spends a lot of money and resources responding to those calls.  Although related, call volume may be a more important indicator in understanding fire service needs than focusing on response time, particularly as it relates to the question of should we use temporary Federal money to keep Station 4 be open?

With the city experiencing such a large number of calls per capita – relative to Oxnard, Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley – something other than the jail, the county hospital and the homeless population are driving this unusually high volume of calls. 

Adequate fire protection is important to a community, but keeping Station 4 open because it is there will not solve the possibly more important issue of call volume and how it is addressed.

VCTA urges the City of Ventura to consider carefully the costs and benefits of accepting more federal money to keep the least efficient station open, that once accepted, the city must again agree to not reduce the number of firefighters in the city during the grant period plus one year.

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