Proctor District residents should have emergency workers a little closer for nighttime and early-morning medical emergencies come Friday, when the neighborhood’s 24-hour staffing is set to be restored from 12 hours daily.
Tacoma Fire officials said Wednesday that Ladder 3 and its three-person crew will move to Station 13 at 3825 N. 25th St. from Station 9 at 3502 Sixth Ave., to better serve the city once the Murray Morgan Bridge reopens Friday and the station at the Port of Tacoma closes.
Assuming the bridge opens on schedule, that’s when the ladder company will move.
The Proctor-area station still won’t have a fire engine to fight blazes, but emergency responders will staff it 24 hours a day. Nearby stations, including Station 9, will continue to provide engine service for the area.
The Fire Department cut back Jan. 8 to two firefighters at Station 13 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. after an austerity budget approved by the city in December cut $11 million from the department’s budget. The ladder move means there will be five firefighters at Station 13 during the day.
Station 15 at East 64th Street and McKinley Avenue is still staffed 24 hours, but it lost its engine and some crew members as part of the scaled-back services. Station 6 by the Port of Tacoma closes completely this week.
That means that if downtown companies respond to an emergency on the Tideflats, across the reopened bridge, backup crews could be needed to cover downtown itself.
Ladder 3 should be able to get downtown faster from Station 13 than from Station 9, according to Tacoma Fire.
“This change was triggered by the reopening of the Murray Morgan Bridge and our knowing that the response district for the downtown district would expand eastward into the Tideflats, so as we looked at our total coverage for our system, we realized the importance of (Ladder 3) for backing up the downtown companies,” Fire Chief Jim Duggan said.
A nearby ladder company is especially important for responding to fires in high-rise buildings, such as those downtown, fire officials said.
The rigs usually are needed for blazes in buildings with three or more stories.
The Ladder 3 move is one of several changes Tacoma Fire officials announced Wednesday that they say will better serve the city once the bridge reopens and Station 6 closes.
Starting Monday, Tacoma Fire will have two crew members on call at the training center in the port area to respond to medical emergencies during business hours Monday through Friday, though they won’t be covered when the crew members are on leave, Duggan said.
The closure of Station 6 also means the fireboat Destiny will move to the Tacoma Yacht Club until its future home on Ruston Way is renovated, which should be spring 2014, Tacoma Fire said.
Tacoma Fire Union Local 31 offered up concessions in December meant to prevent $1 million in cuts and to restore services, a plan city officials rejected, saying it was not sustainable. Local 31 President Ryan Mudie said the changes announced Wednesday are a step in the right direction but don’t go far enough.
“It helps a little; it does not solve the problem,” he said. “There’s still not a fire engine with water (at Station 13).”
He’d like to see an engine at the Proctor station around the clock, more fire coverage for the Tideflats, and the Destiny stationed with the firefighters who operate the boat. Even when it’s moved to Ruston Way, the boat’s crew will travel to it from a nearby station when it’s deployed.
“The city needs to prioritize their budgeting,” he said. “When you reduce staffing to this level, everyone is in harm’s way.”
He agreed that the downtown response times would be faster with the Ladder 3 move, but he said the change would take the company farther away from the freeway, where its Jaws of Life and other extrication equipment are needed to remove patients trapped after vehicle crashes.
The rig is one of four ladder companies in the city, and anytime the department moves a rig, there are trade-offs, Duggan said.
“We’re making the best of what we have available,” he said.Alexis Krell: 253-597-8268 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/crime