The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

December 9, 2012

Fire department response time a key issue to neighborhood

(Continued)

MANKATO —

“The way those flames were going, we were saying, ‘Where in the heck is the fire department?’” said Dean Olson. His wife, Melissa, brought Hood a pair of shoes to wear as they watched the flames spread up the front of the duplex.

“It seemed like an awful long time. If they were at the Madison Avenue station, it wouldn’t have taken near as much time. The whole neighborhood was wondering ‘Where is the fire department?’”

Smith said his problem with the situation is that the city told Tourtellotte Park residents, who live below the bluff neighborhood accessed by Swiss Street, that the Madison Avenue station would remain staffed until a new station is built in the northeast corner of the city. Within hours after the fire at Hood’s house, Smith sent the email to remind City Council members of a promise to staff the Madison Avenue fire hall at night until a new station is built at the intersection of Augusta and Premiere drives. (See related story.)

Smith said he had learned the Madison Avenue station, formerly known as Fire Station 1 until the new Fire Station 1 opened recently at the downtown Public Safety Center, hasn’t always been staffed due to a shortage of manpower.

“In fact, more often than not, there is no one to staff former Station 1 and no trucks kept at this station because of it,” Smith said in his email. “It is basically closed for well over 50 percent of the evening hours that it is supposed to be staffed.”

In a public safety facilities study completed in 2010, Jeff Bengtson, deputy director for fire, found that Mankato had to have three fire stations to maintain its current ISO rating of 3. The rating is used, in part, by insurance providers to set insurance rates for structures in the city.

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