For the past three years, Provo Fire and Rescue has been the target of a community risk assessment. On Tuesday, the municipal council heard the report.
Bill Boyd, senior consultant for Emergency Services Consulting International, gave the council some food for thought about where the department stands and where it needs to be.
The good news, according to Boyd, is that Provo has fewer incidents than most cities of similar size in the nation. He said the reason is because residents are extremely self-reliant and neighbors help each other.
However, Boyd said there are number of things that need to be taken care of where the department is deficient and lacking.
The assessment included on-site visits, data gathering and looking at everything from organizational history to community risks.
Chief Jim Miguel and Councilman George Handley both noted there had not been any additional personnel slots added in more than 22 years; crew assignments have just been moved around.
Boyd said that shows in things like the lack of enough fire inspectors for the number of commercial buildings in the city, including Brigham Young University down to any building over three stories high.
For instance, inspections for occupancy have not been given out for the past three months because personnel are currently on the hillside clearing tree limbs and brush to help eradicate fire potentials during the drought and trying to keep wild animals above the hillside homes.
Provo has five fire stations, but only one of them is west of the freeway, which Boyd calls a big barrier.
With the anticipated and ongoing population growth, a fire station should be relocated closer to the Provo Municipal Airport in the southwest of the city and one close to Provo High School in the northwest portion of the city, Boyd said.
Right now, there are only two personnel stationed at the westside location, but Boyd indicated there should be at least four at a minimum. There also is no ladder truck on the west side.
Boyd said there is a significant flood plain in the southwest portion of the city and catastrophic flooding has occurred there in the past.
While having to use census numbers from 2010 and estimating how they might have changed, Boyd noted that Provo’s population is expected to increase 3.4% by 2030, probably more.
The largest number of response calls, about 60%, are for medical reasons and take about 4 to 6 minutes response time given a handful of variables. For a house or structure fire, it takes about 8-9 minutes response time and includes transporting up to 20 crew members.
The short-term goals for the city, which should be done within a year’s time, include: accurately reporting response times and set response time goals; relocating Station 21 farther west because of growth and bringing staffing up to four; making the dispatch center read questions and ask callers on medical emergencies so the proper response time with the right equipment is reached.
Other concerns that need to be fixed this year, Boyd said, include creating a comprehensive list of all the commercial buildings in the city. Currently, the department does not have such a list.
Mid- and long-term goals, which should be completed within three to five years, include putting Station 24 near the airport.
“You could end up with issues and you need more officers per Federal Aviation Administration requirements,” Boyd said. That is based on the new terminal opening and more flight coming in and out of Provo. It would also cover the new Regional Sports Complex being built next to the airport.
According to Boyd, Provo should work with other nearby municipalities to provide response no matter who owns the equipment, and the closest department should be showing up.
“Discussions are ongoing,” Miguel noted of those partnership agreements.
Building inspectors and fire crews should become familiar with commercial buildings and know what is stored in them, Boyd said, so that if there is a late-night call on a fire, information is readily available.
Boyd said a growth management plan should be put in place for the west side, both south and north. Indications are this is where older residents and lower-income residents live and will move to, he said, and more medical calls will come to this area.
In all of this, Boyd said, “financial prudence is a priority.”
Councilwoman Shannon Ellsworth was interested in the BYU population and how Provo covers the campus.
“BYU is self-sufficient,” Boyd said. “They have a small EMS station and they have their own fire marshal. Any demand is human-caused. The maintenance of the campus is exceptional.”
“We recognize our shortcomings,” Miguel told the council. “And we don’t disagree.”
The council will now take the information and work with the mayor and Miguel on what to do next to make sure Provo has the fire and rescue safety it not only needs, but deserves.