A city-county councilor said the removal of a north side ladder truck is already having an impact on public safety.
On July 1, the city of Indianapolis removed the fire department's ladder truck from Station 21 on East 71st Street and relocated it to Station 36 in Lawrence.
Nearby fire stations, such as Stations 6 and 9, now send their ladder trucks if and when they are available.
Councilor Christine Scales (R, District 4) said ladder truck travel times to emergencies have been slower since July 1.
Standards from the National Fire Protection Association recommend a travel time of eight minutes or less for the initial ladder truck 90 percent of the time.
According to NFPA, travel time begins when the unit has boarded the apparatus.
Scales pointed to ladder truck travel times on the north side exceeding eight minutes as proof the removal of the ladder truck is having a negative effect.
"If we don't have a rapid response time, we are more at risk for a fire that's out of control, more loss of life and serious property damage," said Scales. "Ladder trucks are the ones who put the ladders up to the building, start venting so smoke and toxic chemicals can escape, and then go in and start performing search and rescue."
Records provided by the Indianapolis Fire Department show some calls exceeding the eight-minute mark by a few seconds, and some exceeding it by up to 50 seconds.
A July 15 call to 7422 Harbour Isle showed the engine arrived at four minutes two seconds, and the ladder truck arrived at eight minutes, 50 seconds.
"We need the protection we are due up on the north side," said Scales. "Every second counts."
Scales said she is concerned for high-risk apartment complexes like Carriage House on Tacoma Circle.
"There's always a medical emergency or someone leaves a pot on the stove, and then a fire starts," said Scales. "This complex has a history of needing one to two runs by Station 21 per week. They have Section 8 residents who are elderly and disabled, and need a lot of assistance if there is a fire."
The Indianapolis Fire Department did not provide someone to speak on camera Tuesday, but in a statement pointed out the majority of travel times are well within the recommended standards.
"As with many areas, traffic congestion and construction projects on the north side impact our operations," read the statement from Deputy Chief of Operations Kenneth Bacon. "Our fire companies do a very good job of adjusting their routes for the most effective approach to emergency scenes."
Bacon said the agency is constantly monitoring response times throughout the city, and the times reflected on the north side are consistent with travel times in other parts of Indianapolis.
Marc Lotter, spokesperson for Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, pointed out there is another ladder truck stationed just three miles from Station 21 and three ladder trucks within five miles.
"Not every fire station has a ladder truck," read the statement provided by Lotter. "In fact, of the 44 IFD fire stations, currently 23 have ladder trucks. IFD strategically deploys resources in an efficient manner to best protect the city."
Scales said that's not good enough, and is pushing for Ballard to restore Ladder 21 to Station 21.
"Even with tough times we're facing right now, public safety is the number one priority," said Scales.
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