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Response times rising for fire department

Rocklin cuts cause areas to have 10- to 12-minute waits
By: Jon Brines, Placer Herald Correspondent
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Despite a sliding economy, a well-known problem at the Rocklin Fire Department could put some neighborhoods at grave risk. City and fire officials confirm there are two areas of Rocklin with unacceptable emergency response times from the Fire Department. “There are two areas with 10 to 12 minute (response times),” said Fire Chief Bill Mikesell. 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. Concerned Rocklin residents Mark Storace and Margo Rabin told the city council Tuesday to reconsider proposed cost-saving measures at the fire department to support the job they need to do. “Everybody is in a pinch,” Rabin said. “There are no easy answers, but we have to do what’s best for the community.” According to Mikesell, neighborhoods off Park Drive and Whitney Oaks Drive have a 10 to 12 minute response time. A proposed fourth fire station was planned for this neighborhood, but City Manager Carlos Urrutia said without the revenue from future development in nearby Whitney Ranch and Clover Valley, a fourth fire station is unsustainable. “That’s a problem,” Urrutia said. “Neither one of those projects are moving ahead. We’ll keep addressing it as we can. But you can’t spend more money than you bring in.” According to officials, neighborhoods off Scarborough Drive and Sierra College Boulevard face response times between eight to 10 minutes. Rocklin resident Linda Baranishys who lives off Scarborough Drive said she trusted the city to look out for her family. “It’s almost like our little area is the forgotten part of Rocklin. We’re neglected.” Baranishys said. Rick Holmes, Firefighter Union president captain, has been lobbying the city to do more to support the fire department but he said the trend is the opposite. “The city continues to bolster that we have superior public safety but it’s kind of a façade,” Holmes said. Holmes said the department has cut staff by 14 percent over the last eight years while calls for service have increased 33 percent. And last year on average, there were eight times per month that an emergency call could not be answered by Rocklin firefighters because crews were already committed. Storace lives around the corner from Rocklin Fire Station No. 3 and was saved by Holmes and his company when he experienced sudden cardiac arrest two years ago. “I was saved by the quick response of the Rocklin Fire Department,” Storace said. “Three minutes and 18 seconds from the time the 911 call was placed, until they reached my door. Two minutes of CPR followed by shocks delivered by a defibrillator.” Storace hopes the city will do something about a clear public safety issue before lives are lost. Mikesell said the response time is misleading as Roseville and Lincoln Fire crews fill-in when Rocklin firefighters are busy or too far away to respond to an emergency call. “If you had a fire station on every street corner, you would still have people die of heart attacks,” Mikesell said. “We’re going to do the best with what we can.” Jon Brines can be reached at jonathanbrines@yahoo.com.