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Scott Nishimura
snishimura@bizpress.net

Fort Worth’s fire response times rose in the first five months of the fiscal year, but Fire Chief Rudy Jackson attributed those to the city’s growth and road construction, and not to reductions in the department’s 2014 budget.

“I can assure you that any changes in these metrics have nothing to do with our resource reductions,” Jackson told City Council members Tuesday morning.

The department’s call volume in the first five months of the year rose to 39,533, up from 36,647, Jackson said.

Average response times rose to five minutes and 30 seconds, up from five minutes and eight seconds for the same period the prior year, he said.

Besides growth, particularly in the “outer areas” of Fort Worth, ongoing road construction across the city has made it “hard to maneuver in and out and get there in a timely manner,” Jackson said.

The department began the fiscal year in October with 24 fewer firefighters. Jackson promised to stretch the department’s resources without having to deactivate any fire companies - a fire company is a vehicle and its crew - for any periods.

“We kept that commitment,” Jackson said Tuesday, in a quarterly update he’s promised to make to council members.

The department has rotated firefighter-trained employees like arson investigators into fire stations, delayed filling non-operations vacancies “when possible,” reduced training expenses, and delayed technology updates “when possible,” to meet its budget, Jackson said.

In February, U.S. Rep. Kay Granger announced the city has won a $3.39 million federal SAFER grant that will let the Fire Department fill firefighter vacancies it lost in the 2014 budget.

Jackson projected firefighters being added through the grant will join the department beginning in April 2015, with full staffing by mid-2015.

“This is great news,” Jackson said. “It allows us to get back to full staffing.”

Council members lauded Jackson for the department’s management of resources.
 

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