Prescott Fire Department Is Now Able to Staff Station #73 at the Airport Fully Due to the SAFER Grant
Effective Saturday, April 1, 2017 as a direct result of a SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant awarded to the City through FEMA, the City of Prescott Fire Department again has enough firefighters to be able to end the practice commonly referred to as “station brown outs.”
Fiscal pressures forced the fire department to “brown-out” its airport fire station, on the north side of Prescott, for a majority of days since January 1, 2016. A “brown-out” is when there are not enough personnel working at a fire station to allow them to respond to calls on an engine company, commonly known as a fire truck-in Prescott Fire’s case, 3 firefighters are the minimum staff required to staff an engine company on emergency calls.
On the days when less than three personnel were available, the engine company that ran out of that station was not available. An alternative vehicle, Rescue 73, was configured to provide a minimal level of service to the area served by the airport fire station for emergency medical service calls which provided a Paramedic and Emergency Medical Technician the ability to respond.
In August of 2016, the City was notified of the award of the $1.5 million dollar grant to fund the hiring of up to 9 new firefighters for a period of 2 years. The grant pays 100% of the cost of the firefighters for that 2 year period. At the end of the grants period of performance that runs from February 6, 2017 until February 5, 2019 a determination for the continued funding of the grant funded positions will need to be addressed.
Fire Chief Dennis Light states “that although negative outcomes are virtually impossible to qualify, we were very lucky during this time of reduced staffing and decreased response capability in the City of Prescott.”
He continues to share, “we had some close calls though. There was a large commercial dumpster that was on fire next to a construction office on the airport grounds and the fire truck that ran out of that station was not staffed that day. Luckily, the fire departments specialized Aircraft Rescue Firefighting (ARFF) truck was able to respond across the airport grounds and apply aircraft firefighting foam to the fire, keeping it from getting to the construction office, until such time that the next closest staffed engine company could get on scene to fully extinguish the fire.
Another call, which came very close to having a bad outcome, was a major vehicle accident in the same area. One of the patients required extrication from their vehicle, and with the engine company not staffed, the extrication tools were not available when the Rescue truck arrived on the scene. Luckily, that patient was stable enough that the amount of time it took for the next closest staffed engine with extrication equipment to get to the scene did not affect the patients’ outcome.
Another such call occurred when a local training helicopter crashed on the airport grounds while the engine company was not staffed. Again, luckily, the patient’s conditions and complicating factors such as fire, fuel leaks, and the need for extrication tools, were not such that an engine company needed to get to the scene immediately so the ARFF truck and the Rescue were able to take action without a bad outcome.”
“As of April 1st the Prescott Fire Department was again able to provide 5 fully staffed Paramedic Engine Companies for our emergency response “system.” The “system” includes all Paramedic Engine Companies in the area, a total of 15, that all respond, without borders, as the closest, most suitable, and available unit, to emergency calls in Prescott, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley, Dewey/Humboldt, the unincorporated areas covered by the Central Arizona Fire and Medical Authority, as well as Prescott National Forest, Bureau of Land Management, State, and Tribal lands that we all respond to through mutual and automatic aid agreements.
“Our response partners covered the holes created when Station 73 was browned out and blacked out, and we cannot express enough our appreciation for the assistance they provided to the City of Prescott over the last year.”