Henrico Fire says new stations needed to improve emergency response times

Henrico Fire says new stations needed to improve emergency response times

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) - Henrico County's fire department says it desperately needs to upgrade its facilities to keep families in the community safe, but the funding for the projects fall into the residents' hands.

On Nov. 8, neighbors will have the chance to vote on a bond referendum for capital projects across Henrico. Those funds include $22.1 million to build new and improve the fire departments facilities, which firefighters say will help them respond to emergencies faster.

When responding to an emergency, Henrico Fire Chief Tony McDowell says every minute counts.

"A fire doubles in size every minute, and for people in cardiac arrest, your odds of survival go down 10 percent each minute you're not receiving care," McDowell explained.

McDowell says department's the goal is to have firefighters on the scene of a call within six minutes 90 percent of the time.

However McDowell says there are two neighborhoods where the average response time takes at least eight minutes. To address this, the department wants to build two new stations, one at Staples Mill Road and Glenside Drive and another one near Nine Mile Road and Laburnum Avenue.

"Our hope is that if we build a fire station in each one of these areas, it will allow us to improve our response times and services," McDowell said.

The proposed Staples Mill firehouse would cost $10 million to build, while the Fairfield firehouse would total around $9.6 million, according to Henrico County officials.

The remaining $2.5 would be spent on upgrading and expanding the Fire Training Center on Woodman Road.

McDowell says the cramped space limits the number of recruits each training session. He also adds the facility has no private showers or locker rooms for female trainees.

"If we had a new modern facility, we could run a larger recruit academy," McDowell explained. "We could fill positions more quickly, and be more efficient on how we hire and train firefighters."

Next month's bond referendum is not only for the fire department, it will also provide millions of dollars for Henrico's schools, libraries, roads and parks – a total of 26 projects in all.

County manager John Vithoulkas says the bonds will help the county avoid a real estate tax hike.

"After these bonds and the way we are phasing them in, the reality is this county will have less debt than it did in 2012," Vithoulkas explained.

The funding proposal for the fire department and other projects in the county will be on the back of the November 8 ballot.

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