Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

Nearly four years ago, in May of 2015, in my blog entitled “Glendale Fire Department will have to wait” I first highlighted what had been acknowledged for years and that was Glendale Fire responded to calls into Phoenix far more than Phoenix responded into Glendale.

The situation is a result of the Valley’s Automatic Aid System. It mandates that central dispatch will send the closest available unit to a call no matter the jurisdiction responding. The imbalance was startling. Glendale answered more calls into Phoenix estimated to be 2,000 more calls a year than Phoenix’s annual response into Glendale. In essence, Glendale taxpayers were subsidizing Phoenix’s fire delivery to Phoenix residents.

When I returned to the Glendale City Council in January of 2017 it was a topic of conversation between the City Manager and me.

In November of 2018 a pilot program by Glendale and Phoenix began to dually staff Glendale’s Fire Station 154 with a Glendale fire truck and a Phoenix quad cab truck, which would carry medical gear and four firefighters. The Phoenix unit works daily 10-hour shifts during peak hours. See this link to an article by Grace Oldham in the Arizona Republic: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/phoenix/2019/02/15/phoenix-glendale-fire-department-share-firehouse-city-border-emergency-response/2771826002/ .

It smacks of an unusual moment of common sense. Each city only has so much money to go around to cover all of its needs. By jointly using Station 154 Phoenix does not have to build another fire station in the area of 51st Avenue and Peoria Avenue and Glendale does not have to fund a second unit to man the station. It’s a win-win for both cities. It will reduce Glendale responses into Phoenix in that geographic area by an estimated 8%. If the program is ever extended to 24- hour shifts it would reduce Glendale’s responses into Phoenix by an estimated 20%. Phoenix has committed to continuing the program through 2019 but only with 10-hour shifts.

I don’t know who was ultimately responsible for its implementation but you can be sure the City Managers of Glendale and Phoenix had to approve the concept. Both Fire Departments had to work together to make the pilot project work. Lastly, the fire union had to agree and not put any road blocks to prevent it from working.

Kudos to all involved in making this pilot program a roaring success.

Now, on to my other major gripe with fire delivery service. In the same blog I brought up the issue of using fire trucks to answer medical calls.  It is acknowledged that 70% to 80% of all fire calls are medical calls for service. It drives me nuts to see a fire truck responding to those kinds of calls. Those big trucks are very, very expensive to maintain and operate.

The solution is yet another common sense approach. Greater use of quad cab trucks with paramedics on board. Many Valley cities are moving in that direction, including Glendale. In Glendale there is a program utilizing “low acuity” vehicles but these are for minor medical calls like a sprained ankle. They are not used for major medical calls like heart attacks. The solution is to implement “high acuity” vehicles that can respond to major medical calls all the time.

There has been resistance on the part of fire departments and especially the fire union but another hurdle to overcome is the cost to cities to establish “high acuity” units. In the long run it’s a system long overdue and just a matter of time before cities realize that the long-term O&M costs for “high acuity” vehicles will pay for themselves by reserving those big fire trucks to answer the calls for which the trucks were designed…fires.






© Joyce Clark, 2019         


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