Merced working to open a new fire station, amid long response times

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Merced Fire is working on opening a new fire station in hopes of decreasing response times and freeing up resources. (KFSN)

The Merced Fire Department is working on opening a new fire station in hopes of solving some of the issues that are impacting their response times and tying up their resources.

Response times are a major issue in a report that Chief Michael Wilkinson presented to the Merced City Council on Monday.

Wilkinson said the ideal travel time to get to an emergency is 4 minutes, but said that staffing shortages at dispatch and lack of resources in parts of the city are delaying fire crews.

"We're probably looking at six, eight, maybe even 10 minutes before the first engine arrives," Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson said due to a statewide shortage of paramedics, another challenge is having to tie up resources until a paramedic can arrive on the scene.

"Many times we'll have our engines on the scene of an emergency medical call for extended periods of time. Sometimes it's 30, 40, or 45 minutes because there's not a paramedic unit available," Wilkinson said.

A solution Wilkinson is asking the city to consider is opening a fire station near the junior college in north Merced. He also suggests getting another engine to keep up with calls.

All of the changes could cost up to more than $3.5 million.

"A fire station is about $3 million. We already got about $2 million of that," Merced City Mayor Mike Murphy said. "We're considering having some of our firefighters trained as paramedics. We have EMT's, but to add some paramedics to our fire department,".

Wilkinson is hoping to come back to council in about a month with a report on policy changes and an estimated budget for the improvements.
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