Menlo Park Fire Protection District Chief Harold Schapelhouman is exploring the idea of consolidating two fire stations into one and placing the new station in , a proposition that is opposed by the Firefighters Association.
Captain John Wurdingur, vice president of the Menlo Park Firefighters Association, said it would be more effective to hire more firefighters than to move fire stations.
“Maybe the chief is trying to get more units to East Palo Alto,” Wurdingur said, noting that it is the busiest area in the district.
“But if the chief does that with the same amount of fire fighters on the streets it’s robbing Peter to pay Paul,” he said.
has seven stations that are spread throughout Menlo Park and East Palo Alto. The district employs 84 firefighters, engineers, and battalion chiefs, 25 of which are on duty at any time. The amount of emergency personnel and equipment deployed depends on the severity of the call.
“Our position is that it’s safer when we get enough fire fighters to the scene of a fire to perform the tasks necessary,” Wurdinger said. "Moving stations around isn't going to solve the issue of not having enough firefighters on duty," he said.
If the two stations are coalesced, it could improve response times to the new in Belle Haven and the Project. But the Firefighters Association said this action would negatively alter the district’s ability to respond as quickly to emergencies in North Fair Oaks and the Willows neighborhood.
The San Mateo County Emergency Medical Services Joint Powers Authority mandates that fire engines and ambulances respond to emergency calls within six minutes, fifty-nine seconds to calls in the Fire District. That clock begins the moment a dispatcher answers the 911 call and ends when the firefighters arrive at the scene.
It takes about two minutes, fifteen seconds to get a firefighter into an engine and out the door, from the moment the dispatcher gets the call to the moment the engine is on the way, according to a study done in 2004 by Citygate. Most of the stations are located within a five-minute drive of any structures within the district.
Ideally, fire stations would be within a four-minute drive of any emergency in its jurisdiction, according to the Firefighters Association. The Association prefers the standard for performance measurement set by the National Fire Protection Agency.
initially presented the idea of consolidating stations One and Five to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors during a conversation about replacing fire stations within the district. He said four out of seven stations are out of date; most of them were built in the 1940's and 1950's.
Schapelhouman said the attention should really be focused on what the district is doing in East Palo Alto. After seven years of research, The Menlo Park Fire Protection District Board of Directors voted unanimously to proceed enhancing Station Two in East Palo Alto.
Any station mergers would require additional research he said, and are unlikely to happen any time soon.
"I don’t anticipate that we will be moving forward with Fire Station One for another year or two in terms of available budget to even scope the station replacement project and truly start to study and look at any changes to location," Schapelhouman said, "But we need to keep our options open and Flood Park represents one of those potential options."
He also pointed out that some fire stations are redundant when viewed at the county level.
A 2009 San Mateo County Grand Jury report titled City Fire Department Consolidation found that Fire Station 5 in Menlo Park and Fire station 11 in Redwood City are less than one mile apart.
Chief Schapelhouman is scheduled to discuss this along with other items during a presentation to the Menlo Park Fire Protection District Board of Directors on Tuesday night.
The meeting is open to the public and begins at 7 p.m. in The Classroom at .