As Austin's population booms more fire stations are needed

AUSTIN (KXAN) -- The Austin Fire Department says there is a severe deficiency in the number of fire stations throughout the city. With Austin's population growing by 38 percent in the past 15 years and expected to grow between 30 to 80 percent in the next 30 years, the department is asking city council to consider the construction of five new fire stations.

The stations would be in located in Travis Country, Loop 360, Goodnight Ranch, Moore's Crossing, and the Canyon Creek area. These areas were selected based on their increased population and their distance from the current fire station serving them. In fact, Travis Country was approved for a fire station 18 years ago but it was never built.

The cost per station is estimated between $6 to 8 million. But instead of using tax money to build the stations, city council on Thursday voted to task the city manager with looking at other funding options.

"It's not just asking citizens to build a bunch of expensive fire stations we are looking at how to cut down the foot print, we are looking at how to build them cheaper, we are looking at a public private partnerships," said Bob Nicks, President Austin Firefighters Association.

Another reason the association cites a need for additional stations is due the increased response times. The city of Austin requires fire departments to respond to an emergency within 8 minutes or less, 90 percent of the time. In 2015 they only met that goal 20 percent of the time. For some new neighborhoods response time is upwards of 13 minutes.

"Even though some neighborhoods are getting stellar service there are other isolated neighborhoods around the periphery of the city that are getting severe deficient service  and it effects outcomes on medical calls, it effects outcomes on fire calls, if citizens expect us to save lives or property we simply have to be there to do that," says Nicks.

City council's approval of the new ordinance only tassk the city manager with looking at funding options in the 2016-2017 budget as well as looking at new GPS technology that can change a traffic signal to green prior to the fire truck entering the intersection.

"We can't take six years to build one station we have to have a plan and that's what this resolution does," says Nicks. "It doesn't obligate council to do anything today, it doesn't obligate them to spend any dollars but it puts good data driven evidence in front of them so they can make those proper decisions."

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