The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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December 9, 2012

Fire department response time a key issue to neighborhood

MANKATO — Standing barefoot on icy asphalt while watching a house burn with everything she owned inside, Brittany Hood experienced a perspective only a victim can understand when firefighter response times are discussed.

“I was thinking, ‘That’s my life in there. That’s all I have,’” she said as she prepared to move out of a duplex she had been renting on Swiss Street for the past four months. “I never seen anything burn so quick. I was standing there watching my house burn to a crisp and it seemed like forever.”

Hood was moving the day after the Nov. 25 fire that spawned a new discussion about staffing and response times for Mankato’s Fire Department. The discussion started with an email from former Tourtellotte Park neighborhood resident Jason Smith to members of the Mankato City Council and Public Safety Director Todd Miller. It revealed the Department of Public Safety hasn’t been staffing its fire station on Madison Avenue as often as promised.

For the record, even though firefighters responded to the Swiss Street fire from the new Public Safety Center, the extra mile of travel didn’t put the Fire Department outside of its goal of arriving at a fire within 5 to 7 minutes, Miller said. Reports from the fire show the first volunteer was at the fire within a couple of minutes. A lieutenant and three additional firefighters were there within 5 minutes and the fire that burned the front of the house was knocked down within 15 minutes from the initial call.

But 15 minutes can seem like a lifetime to someone watching her house burn. Even neighbors, some of whom helped get Hood and her 2-year-old son, Colton, out of their basement apartment after the fire started, said it took longer than they expected for firefighters to arrive and start battling the blaze.

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