City Government

Boise Fire Responds To Growth

Boise Fire Department finds itself in a bit of a dilemma over a new station.

To accommodate new growth in the northwest part of the city they are aiming to build a new station somewhere along Hill Road. Seems there is a fair amount of resistance–some folks don’t want to hear sirens screaming all the time.

Meanwhile, the GUARDIAN got word that 70% of the calls for the engine located at Station 9 on Sycamore St. just off W. State are within half a mile of the station and the department is considering relocating the engine company to the new station.

Seems odd to us that a well located engine company is being moved to accommodate growth at the expense of quick service to folks who have paid taxes for their neighborhood station for over 30 years.

They won’t be totally without service because the BFD plans to remodel the station and place a ladder truck on duty. Our concern is that the vast majority of calls for emergency service are MEDICAL in nature and it simply doesn’t make much sense to send a bulky–and costly–ladder truck.

The other alternative is to send the engine from the new location that is farther away from its current home. Another case of juggling services and budget to take care of growth at the expense of long time residents.

BFD had previously purchased land for a station on Gary Lane, but like many of their “forward looking” real estate deals they don’t want to use the parcel.

A public meeting is set for February 22 in the Cynthia Mann Elementary School library at 6pm. Prior meetings and hearings have been mostly negative about the proposed station location.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. ” 70% of the calls for the engine located at Station 9 on Sycamore St. just off W. State are within half a mile of the station”

    Yep; and the majority of them are to a care home (elderly folks, some with various medical problems, handicaps, etc.) on Collister Drive. The station is just a few yards from the home, but the trucks have to go out to State Street and then to Collister. I lived for many years on Collister Drive, just across from the care home, and the big trucks came over every time someone there had a heart attack, or died, or fell, or whatever — which happened a lot, because nearly all the people living there are either very old or have serious disabilities and other problems.

    Always seemed a bit silly to me to have those big trucks come over, but, of course, they were a lot closer than any of the ambulances, so the firefighters would be the first care providers, then a bit later the ambulance would come and its paramedics would take over.

    A ladder truck? There’s not many buildings right close around there high enough to require a ladder truck; doesn’t seem like the most practical place for it.

    EDITOR NOTE–Gordon, in defense of the BFD, ladder companies do more than provide upward mobility. Ladder companies are the guys with special tools to cut holes in roofs for smoke and heat ventilation. They also are the “rescue” guys who open up walls and ceilings so the pumper crews can get at hidden fire.

  2. Considering the debate around the station in south boise, I wonder how this ties in or shows a trend with station placement and planning. I certainly agree that Engine 9 is (Very) well placed. Isn’t the proposed station on gary lane just up the street from the one already on Glenwood?

    Hey editor, regardling the discussion on ladder trucks, and even engine companies…sounds like more evidence for the need to run smaller, safer, more fuel efficient suburbans as first response rigs (as discussed in an earlier BG article), out of at least a few select stations, than big fire trucks and bigger truck companies.

    Eagle Fire does it and it works very well.

    If I was to pick, station 9, with Station 5, would be at the top of my list for such a program. In fact, station five runs enough volume to justify staffing such a rig seperate with two extra FF/EMT’s…except that the BFD dictates that there has to be a Captain ($$$$$) on board if I recall correctly.

    Then there is the fact that BFD runs auto rescue off its ladder trucks, but that is a different debate.

  3. Does call volume necessitate the need for another truck company AND another engine in NW Boise? What are the fire numbers?

    Is Boise Fire not going to continue their MOU with NACFR located at Glenwood and Marigold covering NW Boise for fire and EMS first response in that area? If they are, why would another engine be needed in such close proximity to another fire station?

    There is also the Eagle Fire Dept that has a huge rescue truck for accidents, etc along State St and could reasonably cover within 4-5 minutes to Pierce Park Ln. After all with the cost of purchasing land, building a fire station, and staffing it with 9 or 10 firemen, the city could take a chunk out of the dollars needed for a police station.

    Not to mention the cost of another ladder truck and 12-14 firemen to staff that! If VOLUME dictates the need then so be it, it should happen and Boise should have a ladder truck and another engine in that area of town. If geography is the only reason for expansion then it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars.

    We don’t need another fire station (ie Fire Station #2) that is nestled in the foothills so the firemen can watch the grass grow.

  4. It is like how the city caved at Hidden Springs – we have a firestation way out there to basically serve one development. Not sure that is smart. It just serves the developer not the greater city. Wonder what call area is and how far they actually run and if they actually get a majority of calls from Hidden Springs – doubt it.

    EDITOR NOTE–Hidden Springs is in the North Ada Fire District and not part of Boise City. Last time we checked, the station was not staffed and mostly serves to make people in the area feel good. The station was probably a requirement for the “planned community” that has become a subdivision.

  5. Well, it is deja vu all over again.

    I think it was around 92 or 93 they had the same brainstorm. As near as I can tell, it is to get the fire trucks closer to the more expensive homes in the foothills, no matter who or what they are serving currently.

    Boise may very well need a fire station on Hill Road but I have never thought it should be at the expense of one that appears to be needed where it is. (Although to be fair, it was originally located on Hill Road between 36th and Collister. That was when it was the Collister Fire District, before Boise so graciously made the Collister area part of the city.)

  6. Thanks to the Guardian for this post, and to the readers for comments. As a resident of the street where this facility is proposed, I have to say that this would pretty much destroy the relative peace and quiet of this small neighborhood. I really don’t want to be a NIMBY, especially when it comes to emergency services, but this has got to be one of the worst possible locations for this type of facility, and here’s a few reasons why;

    The lot currently has no access from Hill Rd., and I understand that other potential residential buyers were told that they could not modify the lot to add vehicle access from HIll Rd. as it would present a traffic hazard with a driveway too close to the 4-way stop intersection at Collister and Hill (which is completely backed up during heavy traffic times). Apparently a fire station would be allowed access to HIll Rd.

    Residents were first told that all emergency vehicle traffic would use HIll Rd. and only employees in POVs would use Shirley as access. The last meeting indicated the fire trucks would indeed use Shirley, but only on return trips with no sirens. I am not confidant, that especially during peak traffic hours, that our short street of 20 homes (most at least 30yrs old or older) would not become simply a short cut for the trucks, as well as for the traffic that will be backed up and diverted with a signal right next to an already crowded intersection.

    The focus of calls from the facility would be to the west and north. This property is on the south and east side of the intersection. This means that all emergency traffic has to cross Hill Rd. against traffic, then get through the busy intersection before they’re even pointed in the right direction. Seems like a location on the north side of Hill and west of Collister is a more logical location for ease of access and fewer disruptions of traffic.

    My take on this is that there are other potential locations, but they are more expensive or involve negotiations with parties more powerful than mere homeowners, and once again, established, older neighborhoods suffer in favor of new development. There’s got to be a better way.

    I’m not an expert on zoning or property laws by any stretch, this is just my appraisal of what seems fair for existing residents, who bought these properties in large part because of the quiet, semi-rural feel of this part of town. We have seen a lot of infill here, and although it’s not my ideal, I accept some development as necessary for urban planning and infrastructure, and infill is preferable to carpeting Idaho with 10 acre ranchettes, but cramming this facility in this inappropriate location will not improve our little neighborhood. It just appeared to be the path of least resistance for property acquisition.

    Hope to hear many more comments on this, especially notes from other parts of town that have (or don’t have, or need) stations, and I hope local residents will fully participate in the upcoming meetings. Thanks G!

  7. Access to Hill Rd? Hmmm, familiar story. Seems Eagle’s newest fire department asked ACHD for special access to State St from the business park and were denied. Now the lovely Eagle fire station is trapped within the business park. They have to wind through side streets at a slow speed before they can open-it-up to get to an emergency.

    And it would take forever for any Eagle response vehicle to get to Glenwood / Collister Pierce Park. I drive Hill Rd every day from Eagle and Pierce Park is a lot farther away than Voter1 seems to think, even along State St.

    Hill Road Parkway is a nightmare in the winter. It wasn’t banked properly when it was constructed so it would be difficult for a big rig to get up to speed. Whatever water gets on it freezes on cold winter nights so it becomes a skating rink. Because Hill Rd Pkwy is out in the open, the snow / ice melts during mid-day then re-freezes at night into black ice.

    I’m also surprised by the Hidden Springs Fire Station being abandoned. Now that Cartwright is paved to Bogus Basin, it seems that fire station would come in mighty handy for many people in the foothills.

    EDITOR NOTE–We just checked with North Ada Fire and they are planning on putting a couple of firefighters in that station from 8 am-5pm most days. Currently there are volunter EMTs in the stations at irregular hours. We were told there is not enough tax base to pay for firemen at the location…developer scammed the commishes OR the fire dept. didn’t do as promised.

  8. Developers scam commissioners? Tell me it isn’t so.

  9. Yep, and the commishes, councilors etc. keep right on approving things without any conditions in the contract to deal with such scams.

    How about wording to the effect that, if you don’t meet all the conditions and requirements, you will be fined $50,000 a day until you correct the problems, and will be forever barred from doing any further projects in our jurisdiction”?

    A little jail time might be a good incentive,, too, eh?

  10. The original developers of Hidden Springs intended the people living there to be volunteers for NACFR. Like that would really happen.

    The commissioners bit on that hook line and sinker. Just like they do to any development anywhere at anytime.

  11. Inside City Hall
    Feb 20, 2007, 1:39 pm

    This will be NO surprise but there are HUNDREDS of conditions of approval that NEVER get done and the city and the county NEVER enforce them.

    Even when developers violate the conditions there are virtually NEVER penaties or fines or any impacts at all.

    Most often no one ever reports the failures. SO the city does not care.

  12. Captain Fendley
    Mar 16, 2007, 4:22 pm

    In Response to Nemo, “Eagle Fire does it and it works very well” Please leave us out of this debate. Frankly our station crews do not care for the practice and do not want to respond in S.U.V. type vehicles.

    The perceived advantages of mileage and lower operating costs are bunk. The costs of purchase, maintainence, insurance, fuel, and depreciation of two vehicles (one for each station) is more than the minimal cost of operating pumper trucks that we must have in order to extinguish fires anyway.

    We respond on average to 4 calls a day between two fire stations and a third station will come on line around January of 08 to further distribute the call load. Fire apparatus are replaced because they become obsolete not from high mileage on the odometer.

    The cost in terms of efficency is suspect as well. Should we respond with a single purpose vehicle that only deals with medical calls or should we respond with a vehicle that can handle both medical and fire calls? We carry medical gear in the pumpers and have plenty of room to add even more items in the future. However, we cannot mount water tanks, hoses and ladders on SUV’s.

    Why do we currently respond with SUV’s? Well, I can’t speak for the leadership and won’t but this is a carryover practice from many years ago when the volunteer personnel took the SUV vehicle (only one station then) home and responded when a call came in. Old habits are hard to change I suppose.

    If the leadership wanted to staff the SUV’s with a second fulltime crew I would have no reason to disagree. However that is not the case. I think most neighboring fire departments have a more efficent response assignment than we currently do.

    Brian Fendley
    Eagle Firefighters Local #4553

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