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‘Unprecedented’ growth in fire dept, fire chief says

October 12, 2018

The city of Pearland is expanding its emergency response capabilities at an unprecedented rate, adding several stations, replacing two others and hiring additional fire staff, Fire Chief Vance Riley says.

“It’s the most significant growth of the fire department since it was created in 1946,” said Riley, who has led his department for seven years.

The reason, he said, is that “the exponential growth of Pearland in the last 15 years outgrew the fire department.”

A major goal in the plan is to add a second station in the part of the city west of Texas 288, which has seen rapid residential growth.

The city approved the projects, totaling about $45.2 million, in its 2018-19 budget adopted on Sept. 24. Pearland is also adding six positions in 2019 to its current staff of just over 100 firefighters, Riley said.

The fire department now operates out of six stations and responds to more than 10,000 calls per year, according to the department’s web page, serving an area of more than 75 square miles with a population of more than 130,000.

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Especially needed, according to a Pearland budget document, is Fire Station No. 8 planned for the Shadow Creek Parkway area, where response times for emergency calls can substantially exceed four minutes, according to a city budget document.

Response time is measured from when someone calls 9-1-1 until a unit arrives on the scene, Riley said. The department’s target response time is seven minutes and 30 seconds.

Citywide, response times often run up to 13 minutes, Riley said.

“Some (emergency calls) require four- to five vehicles coming from all parts of town,” he said. “Pearland is very wide east to west, and some areas have very heavy traffic and we have to add stations to get those response times down.”

The expansion plan will bring the city’s total number of fire stations to nine.

“We believe that 10 stations will get to our target — depending on future growth,” he said, referring to another potential station proposed for near Pearland Regional Airport by not funded this year.

A station for northern Shadow Creek Ranch

Fire Station No. 8 will be the department’s second station west of Texas 288.

“Fire station No. 5 has been the only fire station west of (Texas 288) since 2011, and most of city growth has occurred in that area and most city services has exceeded capacity and increased response time to that area,” Riley said.

Station No. 8 will be the most expensive of the projects, costing $13.4 million. Its coverage area near Texas 288 and FM 521 will include the northern half of the Shadow Creek Ranch development and range north to the Sam Houston Tollway.

The station’s building size will be from between 16,000 and 18,000 square feet, and the facility will house one ambulance, two fire trucks and one ladder platform.

The station will serve a large area since a sector of the city previously pegged to be covered by what would have been Fire Station No. 9 doesn’t contain readily available land to construct a facility. Because Station No. 9 won’t be built and because a future Station No. 10 isn’t funded this year, one of the stations being constructed will be named No. 11 even though only nine will exist.

Planned staffing for No. 8 includes two, four-person engine crews, a four-person ladder crew and a two-person ambulance crew. The station will have four, 80-foot-deep drive-through equipment bays. Estimated completion date is fall 2019.

Adding to the importance of that planned station is that Fire Station No. 5, at FM 518 and Kirby Drive, is running at maximum response capacity, budget documents indicate.

The other planned new stations are as follows:

Fire Station No. 7 to be built near Texas 35 and Bailey Road as a $8.3 million, 11,000 square feet station with a target completion of September 2020, and

A $9.5 million, 11,000-square-foot Fire Station No. 11 be built on County Road 100 near Harkey Road once service needs warrant construction, possibly within five years. The 11,000-square-foot station will house a four-person engine crew and a two-person ambulance crew and contain three 60-foot drive-through bays.

Stations scheduled to get replacement facilities are:

Fire Station No. 1, a 48-year-old station at Old Alvin Road and East Orange Street,is the oldest station in Pearland and will be replaced with a $5.6 million, approximately 10,000-square-foot facility scheduled to be completed by January.

Fire Station No. 4, will go in a planned $8.4 million building one block east from the existing station, built in 2002, at Cullen Boulevard near Broadway Street. Its estimated completion date is September 2021.

The rebuilt Station No. 1 will include a four-person engine crew and a two-person EMS ambulance crew with housing and two trainees. Equipment areas will include three, 60-feet drive-through bays, a bunker gear storage area, medical supply storage and an EMS/firefighter decontamination area. An additional two bays could be added later, according to budget documents.

The city says the replacement facility for the station will improve response times and 24-hour operation, according to city capital improvement documents.

According to the city documents, the existing Fire Station No. 4 was built for an all-volunteer fire crew who would respond to calls from home and report to the station as necessary. As of October 2017, all fire positions are filled by paid staff, Riley said. The new station will accommodate more living and hygiene quarters and be designed to be more hurricane-resistant than the original structure.

jaimy.jones@chron.com

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