Charlotte Fire wants more firefighters as growth in the city puts a strain on resources

(Coleen Harry/WBTV)
(Coleen Harry/WBTV)
(Coleen Harry/WBTV)
(Coleen Harry/WBTV)
(Coleen Harry/WBTV)
(Coleen Harry/WBTV)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Fire Station 42 in east Charlotte has a distinction in the Charlotte Fire Department.

"The call load is heavy and the Central Avenue/Albermarle Road corridor – this is the busiest engine company in Charlotte,"  Fire Chief Jon Hannan said. "It runs about 5,000 emergency calls a year and it misses over 800 emergency calls in their due territory that other fire engines have to pick up because they're busy."

Fire officials say Charlotte's growth is behind the fire department's need for more crew members.

On the east side, firefighters at Station 42 say they respond to lots of calls in apartment buildings."It's more people. It's more traffic," Hannan told WBTV. "As the city develops in a more dense fashion as there's more apartments and condominiums, there's more people in the same area. Traffic gets worse that makes it slower for us."

The department has a response time goal.

"We want to get to you in under six minutes so we can make a difference," Hannan said.

Hannan says in order for Station 42 to cover the call load and respond quickly, the fire station needs help. Hannan wants to add another engine and hire 18 additional firefighters to work at the station.

As Charlotte continues to grow, public safety budgets are swelling. The police department is also asking for more help.

Can the city afford to give police and fire additional help?

"The city is continuing to grow but coming out of the great recession there were only so many resources available for the city to apply to the problem so now that the recession is starting to lift a little, they're trying to address the growth and the need to deal with it," Hannan said.

"It's absolutely important. Our city needs to be safe," Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles said. "And fire safety is one of the primary considerations."

Lyles says the city pays for public safety with property taxes.

What does this mean for residents that both police and fire departments need additional resources?

"The most important way we can spend money – taxpayer money on – is safety and we fund police and fire from the property taxes," Lyles told WBTV. "The budget does not include an increase in property taxes. We're going to use the growth that is new to Charlotte to pay for these new facilities."

Lyles says there's no doubt the city's increased population is taxing public safety services.

"New people move to Charlotte every day. They're working," Lyles said. "They're bringing their families so we have to begin to do more facilities, fire and police officers and fire stations to accommodate that growth but it basically comes down to making sure our citizens feel safe."

For the Charlotte Fire Department, it's not just the east side of the city that is seeing a heavy call load. The department says the city needs a new fire station on the west side on Clanton Road near I-77.

"When you have a fire, it takes at least four fire trucks to deal with it and getting those there in the amount of time to make a difference we just need more assets on the west side," Hannan said.

Department officials said the city has a total of 42 fire stations.

Fire officials say during the fiscal year that started July 2015 and ended June 2016, the department received 117,627 calls. Fire crews say they're estimating that when this current fiscal year ends in June, the department will have handled 122,000 calls.

Hannan says his department no doubt needs more resources.

"The sheer call load volume and the other part is getting to somebody in time to make a difference so as traffic gets heavier, as there's more traffic, as we use more traffic calming devices it slows our response time down and that's when we have to look at in field fire stations like the one on Clanton Road," Hannan said.

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