To the Editor:
We, the presidents of the NorthEast Citizens’ Association and the North Old Town Independent Citizens Association, are writing to express the deep concern of many of our members over the budget proposal to remove Fire Engine 204 from Station 204. The city manager has proposed that rather than keep in the budget firefighter positions needed to staff Station 210, the needed firefighter positions from 204 will be transferred to 210. Fire Engine 204 itself would otherwise not need to be moved; in recent years, the city purchased a full fleet of new engines.
City Budget documents candidly admit that this action will increase response times on the city’s East Side. The plan to move the Engine and its crew can also be expected to cause ripple effects throughout the surrounding neighborhoods, since the fire response system will be spread more thinly. In fire and other emergency situations, seconds count. Therefore, many residents of the area served by Engine 204 and beyond realistically fear a significant loss in protection if this proposal is adopted. They are also dismayed to learn that the removal of Engine 204 is to occur before the city does a comprehensive study of the deployment of equipment and personnel in relation to call volume, call types, and other factors. The city manager says this study will not be completed until FY 2016, after Engine 204 is moved.
Also surprising to area residents is that this proposal comes at a time when the north and northeast parts of Alexandria are experiencing a substantial increase in residential and commercial development. Combining this increase in the number of new residents and structures needing fire protection with the existing large number of older structures that lack modern fire suppression and are thus more apt to suffer rapid and disastrous destruction due to fire, makes this proposal more puzzling.
Finally, we have recently discovered that the area in which Engine 204 currently resides is plagued by substandard water pressure, significantly lower than on the West End, making the immediate availability of the pumping power of multiple fire engines critical here.
We understand the financial problems facing the city and appreciate the difficulty in balancing the budget. However, public safety is the highest priority of governments at all levels. All sectors of Alexandria deserve fire and EMS protection that meet or exceed national standards, which this budget appears not to do.
We urge the City Council to revise this budget so that all Alexandrians can feel secure that their lives and property are protected. This can occur only when all sectors of the city receive protection equal to the highest standard.
Mary Jane Kramer, President, NorthEast Citizens' Association
Tom Soapes, President, North Old Town Independent Citizens Association