Walker County emergency response times reduce drastically

Walker County Emergencies - WTVC.PNG

Could you wait more than twenty minutes for help during an emergency situation? That used to be the reality for some people living in the rural areas of Walker County.

Of the county's 19 fire stations, 13 are full of volunteer firefighters. That means crews wouldn't be available at all times, and calls to their station, would have to be picked up by other stations, typically farther away. That became a problem in three of Walker County's areas; Villanow, Cane Creek and Cove Road. Each, averaging double-digit response times.

"Looking at 20-30 minute response times, that’s kinda unfair to the citizens," said Walker County Fire Department Deputy Chief Nathan Forrow. "We want to do whats best for the citizens of Walker County."

Walker County residents say every second waiting for help during an emergency, can start to feel scary.

"You envision danger," said resident and former volunteer firefighter Farrell Brown. "You envision something you’re not going to be able to control. There's a lot of anxiety there."

As of October, those three stations became full of full-time firefighters.

"We've kinda spread our people out," said Deputy Chief Forrow. "It's impacting everywhere around us so that our response times are getting better in every district."

The agency averaged the response times of the six full-time stations from January to September, and compared them to the average times for the month of October.

According to Walker County Emergency Services, this is what those averages looked like:

  • Station 14 (Villanow) averaged 22 mins 10 secs from Jan - Sept 2017 ; Oct 2017 average response time was 8 mins 42 secs
  • Station 15 (Cane Creek) averaged 12 mins 33 secs from Jan - Sept 2017 ; Oct 2017 average response time was 6 mins 18 secs
  • Station 20 (Cove Road) did not have a previous average. A county spokesperson says that's because before October, this station didn't exist. Average response time in Oct 2017 was 9 mins and 7 secs.

By moving full-time firefighters from other stations to Villanow, Cane Creek, and Cove Road, Walker County says they were able to reduce their response times without hurting the other stations' response times and without spending taxpayer dollars. The response times for the stations affected are shown below:

  • Station 9 (impacted by St. 20) averaged 13 mins and 39 secs from Jan - Sept 2017 ; Oct 2017 average was 11mins 1 sec
  • Station 16 (impacted by St. 15) averaged 13 mins and 11 secs from Jan - Sept 2017 ; Oct 2017 average was 8 mins and 40 secs
  • Station 17 (impacted by St. 14) averaged 25 mins and 2 secs from Jan - Sept 2017 ; Oct 2017 average was 11 mins and 21 secs

"That’s wonderful news," said Brown. "I'm glad that we’re progressing and moving forward."

The department says their full-time stations use to employ somewhere between 3-5 firefighters, but after reallocating their resources, each of those station now have 2-3 firefighters, in addition to the volunteer crews.

Deputy Chief Forrow says as of Wednesday, the department has already responded to over 4,000 emergency calls.

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