Alexandria (VA) Opens $15 Million Fire Station

A new fire station near Alexandria’s southwest corner opened last week with a crew of paramedics, their truck and a fire engine. But there are no firefighters assigned to the station — and it could be as long as five years before they arrive.

The decision to leave the station short-staffed has upset some residents, who point to the need for better fire coverage in the area, especially since Norfolk Southern announced plans to expand its nearby ethanol transfer yard.

More than 250 people have signed an online petition calling for a full firefighting crew, near the Van Dorn Metro stop along booming Eisenhower Avenue.

Residents in that area have the longest wait in the city for a fire crew to respond to a call for help — about 10 minutes on average. The station equipped to fight chemical spills is across town, at Potomac Yard. There are eight other stations in the city.

“How can we build a $15 million fire station in the most under-served part of the city and then supposedly have no funds to staff or equip it?” civic activist Don Buch wrote on the petition. “Can you imagine Jefferson Houston [School] opening and the community being told there is no money to hire/pay teachers? Or we can’t afford any books for a new library?”

The quickest and cheapest way to staff the station would be to transfer a crew, which, was the city’s original plan. But residents of the North Old Town area, which would have lost the truck, protested, and the City Council backed down.

Budget officials estimate the cost of hiring, training and staffing a crew to be $866,000 for fiscal 2016, with costs increasing each year. It takes 12 firefighters to staff a truck, working in 24-hour shifts of four people. In contrast, three paramedics work each shift, for a total of nine per crew.

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