Des Moines, Iowa Fire Chiefs Consider Ways to Reduce Response Times

Fire chiefs in four Des Moines, Iowa, suburbs have begun discussing consolidating fire department services with the primary goal of reducing response times.

The Des Moines Register reports that the fire chiefs in Clive, Urbandale, Waukee and West Des Moines say that plans must be made before services become overwhelmed, and consolidation plans could save time and money.

Fire departments only respond to emergencies within their boundaries, unless neighboring departments are called in and are available to help.

The Waukee fire department says it has seen a 72.5 percent increase in service calls between 2005 and 2014. Waukee fire chief Clint Robinson says the department is on pace to respond to 100 more calls this year than it did last year. The Clive fire department is expecting a 6 percent increase in calls from last year.

The Des Moines-area officials are looking at a “closest unit response” system, which would allow the closest station to a call for service to be the first on the scene. Rick Roe, Clive’s fire chief, says the communities’ 911 dispatching service, which they all already share, could be reprogrammed to find the closest station.

“You would go through and completely eliminate your city borders and do some computerized or GIS mapping studies and say, ‘All right, what’s the closest station?’ And you just divvy up your areas based on who can respond more quickly,” Roe said.

Waukee fire chief Clint Robinson says the plan seems to be the “least political and easiest way to do things,” as long as one department does not become overwhelmed.

Consolidating stations and equipment is also being discussed.

Dennis Henderson, city manager for Clive, said that consolidation of departments is always a possibility, but “That’s not a tomorrow thing, that’s a someday thing.”

Clive and West Des Moines already share a station that is jointly funded and operated by both departments. According to Roe, the Clive fire department pays about one-third of the costs, based on call volume.

Urbandale has a plan in the works.