The City of Tulare's in Need of New Fire Stations

September 11, 2009 6:28:01 PM PDT
Fire fighters in the South Valley are hoping to receive a big check from the federal government. They want to use the money to improve fire protection for thousands of Tulare families.Firefighters say response times on the east side of Tulare are double what they should be. City officials have already purchased a vacant two-acre lot to build a new fire station. But with money not readily available to build the station, it could be several years before residents here see faster response times.

The New Del Lago subdivision attracted many people to live on Tulare's east side during the housing boom three years ago. But the rapid growth has firefighters scared they won't be able to get to the neighborhood fast enough in an emergency.

Tulare Fire Captain Kevin Little said, "I live in that area and I worry about that having three kids myself right now and I want to see the fire department get there if they get hurt

Tulare Fire Chief Mike Threlkeld says every minute wasted could cost a life or cause a fire to double in size. Threlkeld said, "What we're finding is our response times from our existing three stations are exceeding the four-minute goal that we've established and they'll go anywhere from 8-10 minutes depending on the nature of the call the traffic."

Chief Threlkeld is working with the city to build two new fire stations, one on the east side to better serve the area, and a second to replace an outdated fire station on Tulare's west side.

"We do have female firefighter paramedics in this dept and so we want to provide them the privacy and not just for them but people have different sleeping habits," said Threlkeld.

While the city recognizes the need for the new stations, a drop in sales and property tax revenues has reduced department funding. Threlkeld is waiting to find out if they're eligible to receive part of $214-million dollars in federal stimulus money that was set aside to build new fire stations.

Threlkeld said, "During the application period once it closed I believe it was 6,000 fire departments competing for the money."

The city is also considering completely shutting down a nearby overpass to save money and the time it'll take to widen the heavily traveled roadway. That shutdown would make response times to the east side even longer, even though it would shorten them when the widening is completed.

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