MOUNT VERNON — City officials have long contemplated a second fire station to serve the city's growing east end, buying ground on Sychar Road in preparation for that eventuality. Officials also mention Upper Gilchrist Road as a possible site.
Last year, The Ohio Fire Chiefs Association analyzed the city's fire and EMS runs using 2019 data. According to the data, the best spot for a second station is the intersection of Coshocton Avenue and Vernonview Drive.
Fire Chief Chad Christopher cautioned that the analysis does not look at land availability in the suggested area, it merely provides a location that states “this is the best area for time response.”
“It's kind of up to you to find land, if that's what you choose, or allocate land and try to get somewhere in that vicinity,” he told council on Monday night.
The Mount Vernon Fire Department provides safety services to 80 square miles. The coverage area includes the city and much of Clinton Township; Pleasant, Liberty and Hilliar townships; half of Morris Township; and contracts with the Mount Vernon Developmental Center and the Knox County Airport. Eighty-one percent of runs are within the city.
The MVFD previously divided its coverage area into two districts: north and south of the Kokosing River.
“As we knew we were kind of concentrating on the east side, we took out a little chunk, and that's what we consider District 3. That way we could pretty much track our run volume in these areas,” Christopher explained. “Thirty-three percent of the calls are in that section called District 3.”
In determining the best location, the analysis looked at several criteria. Two major factors are risk assessment and travel time.
Risk can be low, medium, or high. The preferred travel time to emergencies is four minutes.
The report identified 188 target areas in the MVFD coverage area. Of those, 46 were rated as a significant risk; none were rated as maximum risk. Thirty-two of the significant-risk properties fall within a four-minute travel time with a second station at Coshocton and Vernonview.
According to national safety and response standards and guidelines, the MVFD should meet time objectives of around seven minutes for fire and EMS runs. The seven minutes covers the time span between when the call is first received and the unit arrives on-scene. The seven minutes includes a four-minute travel window.
“For travel times to District 3, we only met that 41 percent on the fire side. We met EMS travel time about 27% of the time. Eighty percent of run volume is EMS,” Christopher said.
“You have to remember that on the fire side, a lot of that stuff is happening at night when the roads are clear. On EMS, it's all throughout the day and definitely the busy times of the day.”
Christopher said that in determining locations, you also have to take into account response time from the second station to other parts of the city when providing back-up coverage for the Gambier Street station.
The Coshocton/Vernonview location improves response time to the east side and somewhat to the southeast. It also provides a good response for future growth east of Upper Gilchrist Road.
In 2010, the city bought almost three acres on Sychar Road as a potential site for a second station. However, the report determined the city would receive very little benefit from that site.
“It's not a very good location at Sychar Road. I knew that we had land there and Sychar Road has been a topic, so I had [the OFCA] put a map in there for comparison,” Christopher said.
The analysis went a step further and suggested a location for a future third station.
“I was hoping they weren't going to say something like 215 Ames St.,” he said with a smile. “They did go a bit farther south and came up with a location at the intersection of Glen Road and Newark Road.”
Christopher said that in 10 to 15 years, the three station locations should “cover us pretty good.”
“You always have those little patches, roads or streets that no matter what you do, you're going to have a little bit of trouble getting to some of those spots. But you can see with the three-station location, that covers our city excellent,” he said.
Christopher said there was a lot of discussion about where township coverage fits into the city's plan for satellite stations.
“They were pretty adamant that you're a city fire department. You need to concentrate on how do you reach the citizens of the city to the best of your ability,” he told council. “If that falls in where there's a possibility of helping areas in your township, then that's a bonus.”
In the past, city officials have discussed with College and Monroe trustees the possibility of extending coverage to those townships.
A Coshocton/Vernonview station provides a bit more reach into these townships as well as Morris Township.
Christopher said that while the city currently does not cover Monroe Township, the Coshocton/Vernonview location sets up the city to provide “pretty good coverage” should something change with Monroe's department.
Council President Bruce Hawkins said the report was “a good beginning for us to digest and think about.”