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Published February 02 2010

West Fargo to get 2nd fire station

West Fargo could have its second fire station as early as 2011.

On Monday, city commissioners approved a 30-year land lease with the Fire Department for a new station at 455 29th Ave. W. in south West Fargo’s Eagle Run subdivision.

If all goes as planned, construction could begin in mid-May and firefighter crews could begin using the building by 2011, Fire Chief Roy Schatschneider said.

“It’s something we’ve been working on for quite a number of years now and we’re looking forward to it becoming a reality,” he said.

The second fire station serves as another historical marker for North Dakota’s fastest-growing city, which has seen a boom in population during the past decade.

Fire crews now operate out of one station at 106 1st St. W., which serves the more than 24,000 residents of West Fargo.

It can take up to 10 minutes to respond to calls on the farthest edges of their coverage area, Schatschneider said, but the new fire station in the south part of the city could cut that response time in half.

“Some of the areas are more than five miles away from our station,” Schatschneider. “At certain times of the day, our response times are not where we want them to be. This second station is going to greatly reduce that response time, so we can get personnel out on the scene and start providing services at a much reduced time than what we are presently doing.”

Although acknowledging the urban growth, city officials disagree on how the mostly volunteer-staffed Fire Department might operate in the coming years.

The Fire Department employs three full-time personnel, including Schatschneider, but its 42 firefighters serve on a volunteer-only basis.

Schatschneider said it’s likely in the future the department could transition to more full-time staff in order to deal with the increased number of calls.

“We get a great response out of our volunteers right now and as long as we can keep that up, we’re going to continue to go on a volunteer basis,” Schatschneider said, adding that the department responded to 250 calls last year. “But it’s starting to put a pretty good load on the volunteers. Some paid staff would help to ease some of those runs for the volunteers.”

West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern said he doesn’t see the need to change how the department operates, citing both the cost-effectiveness and valuable resource of having the volunteer firefighters.

“I don’t know where that whole idea came from that you have to have a full-time fire department,” Mattern said, citing Bloomington, Minn., and other Twin Cities suburbs as examples of successful volunteer-based fire departments serving communities even larger than West Fargo.

“I think it’s a win-win situation all the way around for the city and for those people that want to do that kind of service,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541