Brooklyn Park adding night shift firefighters

firefighterBrooklyn Park residents will be better protected from fires and medical emergencies at night starting next week.

The Brooklyn Park City Council recently approved a plan to add two firefighters to the night shift. They will operate out of the east fire station 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. beginning March 15.

The city has four fire stations. The central and west stations are currently staffed by two firefighters 24 hours a day, but the east station only has a crew 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day. The north station, located in a part of the city where call volume remains low, is not staffed. However, the city plans to put crews in that station within five years.

“We need the additional resources on the overnight,” Fire Chief Ken Prillaman said.

According to a fire department report, having only four firefighters on the night shift is “inadequate for providing coverage for overlapping calls and is critically below acceptable levels of staffing for structure fires.”

The report says the fire department should be able to muster 15 firefighters within nine minutes to respond to structure fires 90 percent of the time.

“This is virtually impossible for us on the overnight shift” when only four “duty crew” firefighters are working and no full-time fire administration staff is on duty, the report says.

Prillaman told the city council Feb. 19 that under a plan to restructure the department’s leadership using grant money to pay for three full-time supervisor positions, the city can add the two nighttime positions with no net impact on the 2013 budget.

The city will incur a future cost when the grant for the supervisor positions expires, but Prillaman noted that’s part of the department’s five-year plan and has already been accounted for in budget projections.

“This is the first of several steps towards achieving our ultimate staffing model as outlined in that plan,” Prillaman said.

Councilmember Bob Mata asked why the department doesn’t staff the north fire station and whether the new resources could be allocated to that station at least part of the time.

“The people (in the north) who are taking the most burden to pay the salary (through property taxes) are getting the least amount of protection,” Mata said. “… Why should they be the ones that it takes longer to get to than any other part of the city?”

Prillaman said the fire response model is based on quick service, not on how the funding mechanism is structured.

“My concern would be putting resources in an area that still doesn’t have the call volume, knowing that an area that does need these services more frequently will now wait for those services a little longer,” Prillaman said. “… Since we do not have the resources to do both the east and the north, it’s my opinion that this is the best short-term utilization of these additional resources.”

Councilmember Mike Trepanier agreed, noting that he lives in the north.

“I would like to do it all right away, but I don’t think we can do that,” he said. “… I’m 70. I might be making one of those calls. … The plan is to get us to the point where north is covered as well. I just don’t think we can do it right away.”

The city council unanimously approved adding the staff.

Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]