Audit finds San Marcos Fire Department falls short of goal response time


SAN MARCOS, Texas (KXAN) — A new audit shows San Marcos firefighters have missed their target in the time it takes to respond to fire emergencies.

The report took about a year to compile by a third party and was presented this week to city council.

It found that between 2014 and 2018, crews took—on average—10 minutes and 49 seconds to respond to fire emergencies. The department’s goal was six minutes and 20 seconds.

A slide presented by Fire Chief Les Stephens to city council shows response times for the city’s first responders.

The fire chief says the city’s population is growing very quickly and spreading out farther, stretching out his current resources.

“The community has continued to grow both vertically, more and more high rise buildings, and also across the amount of land that the communities developing further and further east and west of the interstate,” said Chief Les Stephens.

Stephens says crews are doing well for the amount of resources they have.

He says some steps to close the response-time gap are already underway, like building a new fire station on each end of town, but he doesn’t expect response times to change overnight.

“Until the tax dollars are generated, you can’t build the infrastructure in a lot of cases to support the growth. So, the development of the city infrastructure, and the city services typically lags the development a little bit,” Stephens said. “We just have to let a little bit of time pass. Let the city’s finances keep up with that growth.”

Stephens says a new Fire Station #2 is under construction on the city’s west side and should be completed next month. Fire Station #6 will go out to bid this month and cover southern San Marcos, he says.

Stephens says another station is being planned for the north end of town and another near the east side of San Marcos.

There may be another delay in the timeline—Stephens says like many other cities across the country, they don’t know yet the full financial impact of the pandemic, which could cause some of those projects to be put on hold down the road.

“Things that were on the drawing board to occur this fiscal year will probably be pushed back for a year, and that creates a domino effect of other items that were scheduled for 2021, like we would push to 2022, and we’ll see what the continued impact of this pandemic,” Stephens said.

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