Quest for fire stations difficult

City Council says if budget doesn't improve there's 'no way' more will be built
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Despite population growth, ever increasing calls for service and lagging response times in troubled areas, the Rocklin Fire Department’s goals for two more fire stations may be trimmed back by City Council members. “We have analyzed this city as needing five fire stations and six companies,” Fire Chief Bill Mikesell told city council during the Nov 15 budget workshop. A new fire station could cost up to $5.2 million to get operational, Mikesell said. Vice Mayor Brett Storey said the city’s projected budget deficits may pose a problem for the department. “If things don’t change, there is no way we’re going to do five stations,” Storey said. “I don’t think that’s ever going to be looked at. I don’t know how you pay for it. We may not be able to get four.” Right now, Rocklin Fire has 37 employees operating at three stations — Station No. 1 on Rocklin Road, Station No. 2 on Crest Drive and Station No. 3 on Wildcat Boulevard. The department’s proposed Station No. 4 overlooking Clover Valley (adjacent to the water tank on Park Drive near Black Oak Place) may get axed as the city council considers funding priorities. Council members seemed more supportive of an extra fire company operating at Station No. 2. At issue, however, is the potentially risky rescue response times reported in some Rocklin neighborhoods. According to the American Heart Association, brain death occurs between four to six minutes after an abrupt loss in heart function, like a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest. According to Mikesell, neighborhoods off Scarborough Drive and Sierra College Boulevard face response times that have peaked between 8- to 10-minutes. Neighborhoods off Park Drive and Whitney Oaks Drive have seen 10- to 12-minute response times. According to the department, Rocklin had a five-minute average for responding crews in 1998. “We are stretched, but we are providing the highest level of service, outstanding service in the words of our citizens,” Mikesell said. Rocklin resident Karen A, who lives in a neighborhood just blocks away from the proposed fourth station, said while the excessive times are worrisome, it’s apparently not too. “It’s a big problem,” Morrin said. “We get fire engines and ambulances in here probably once a week. I’ve never heard anybody say they didn’t get here in time.” Lanny Ford, who walks his dog near the proposed station, has a heart problem and believes the city council should concentrate funding on public safety. “The city council has a tough job,” Ford said. “I would be more inclined to spend the money and put in the station.” Rocklin’s challenges are complicated by neighboring cities. Roseville dropped one fire company that used to respond to Rocklin’s mutual aid calls. South Placer Fire District is not replacing 13 employees, which could cause a brown-out at some stations. Finally, Lincoln has chosen not to open a planned station, according to Mikesell. The fire chief hopes to create a fifth station as a regional public safety training center on the campus of Sierra College. “The public safety facility would include a fire station, a police precinct on campus, training room and facility and maybe even a training ground,” Mikesell said. Without funding assistance from the other partners it could cost $10.2-million. “I don’t know that we’ll have five fire stations in this community in the year 2030, but I think it is better to plan for and adjust as opposed to not have addressed it at this level,” Mikesell said.