Sprawl and Fire Department staffing

This was a very helpful note in understanding how sprawl has affected not only infrastructure but also public safety. Look what has happened in 50 years. Our population has little more than doubled but or geographic sprawl has gone up nearly 5 fold. Taxes will go up significantly to pay for public safety and infrastructure costs.

Strictly speaking fires, we had 177 fires in buildings in 1965 out of a total of 505 alarms. We had 197 fires in buildings averaged annually over the last ten years (range 177 to 277) out of an annual average of 7853 total runs (includes EMS calls; 2734 total runs excluding EMS) over the same ten years (2005-2014).

1966 population was 47,800 and 11.33 square miles of city.

2012 population was 109,000 with a surface area of 54.75 miles.

Our average annual number of fires has remained consistent over the years. We have the same number of fires now as compared to back then. What has increased are the other types of calls that only a fire department can respond to, such as technical rescues and hazardous materials for example. This excludes medical calls which we regard as a value-added service to the citizenry since our staffing is for fires (“fires” is a generic term that we apply to any calls that only firefighters are trained and equipped to handle).

We were rated an ISO Class 5 (1 is the best, 10 is the worst) department in 1965 and we are rated Class 3 today.

Geography/sprawl does impact the ISO classification. More surface area requires more stations/more personnel. We can explore alternative deployment schemes using current resources to compensate for a while for an expanding city surface area. The Fire Department is not keeping up with the sprawl as evidenced by the falling ISO Rating illustrated in the Summary Report.

My calculations based on projections using Planning and Zoning numbers, DMC numbers, and our historical annual averages suggest that we need to hire 1.6 firefighters per year (starting in 2013 unfortunately) to maintain current service levels when using an ISO benchmark and current FFs/1000 population.

Rochester is a fire-safe community with neighborhoods that tend to renew rather than become economically abandoned slum areas. 0.85 FFs per 1000 population seems to be right-sized for COR in that we are coping with the service demands. A concern is deterioration in depth of bench and decay in the ISO Rating which is an objective performance standard used for national benchmarking.

I have attached the charts you requested and the document they are contained in.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you require further.

Steven Belau
Deputy Chief-Operations
Rochester Fire Department


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