Farmersville Fire Department asks for new station

By Jamie Hunt

In many cities, the local fire department is a place where volunteers can hang out, full-time employees can sleep and engines can easily enter and exit the firehouse for emergencies.

In Farmersville the chief, captain and 22 volunteers share an office inside a parking bay at City Hall with no access to living quarters, showers or even a place to take a load off after battling a blaze in the scorching summer heat.

During a presentation at the June 26 Farmersville City Council meeting, Fire Chief John Crivello said that Farmersville is suffering fire losses of about $340,000 a year. Crivello said the city needed a new, centrally located fire station to reduce stress and fatigue for firefighters and decrease the department's response time.

&#8220We've had probably three structure fires; houses, and one fire inside of an automotive repair shop, where there was a burn victim [in the last few weeks],” Capt. Brian Kyle said. &#8220There was also an explosion at Farmersville Dehydrator, and a burn victim.”

Both victims survived, but Kyle said only a few of his volunteers are Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) sand none are the more highly trained paramedics. Like most cities in the county, the fire department is the initial response, followed by an ambulance. Since Farmersville does not have an ambulance company, it must wait for the nearest ambulance to come from Exeter.

For the past eight years, the fire department has been based out of a cramped office at City Hall. Crivello was joined at the meeting by Lt. Ron Parish, who said the volunteer firefighters understood the budget constraints of the city, but also knew that the need for a new station was a public safety issue for the entire community.

The old fire station on Ash Street was built in the 1940s and is in bad shape. Crivello said there no way the station could be brought up to today's standards, but the department is still using the station to store their older engines.

There was a plan for a new fire station in 1997, which, according to Crivello, would still be viable today. He said a new station would have to be large enough to house all of the modern equipment and facilities for the firefighters.

&#8220We need a 9,000-squre-foot, three-bay engine room, that is double deep, so engines can drive through for easy engine access and quick exits.” Kyle said. Kyle said the new station would also need a couple of offices, a training/meeting room, a kitchen, a living room, sleeping quarters, showers, lockers, and other necessities for a 24-hour fire station.

Crivello said the department's peak call activity drops off about 2 a.m. in the morning, when Farmersville residents retire for the night.

However, when fires do happen in the middle of the night, nearly all of the fire volunteers are responding from home because there is nowhere to stay over night. This adds to the response time.

Farmersville requires at least four firefighters be on scene before anyone can enter a burning structure. If Kyle is first on scene, he has to wait for back up from fire stations in Exeter, Visalia, or from Farmersville volunteers who drive their own personal vehicles without sirens, which slows down their response time.

Crivello said that the fire department should respond within five minutes, but the average response time in Farmersville is closer to eight minutes.

With Kyle being the only full-time firefighter on duty, Crivello said the department needs another full-time fire person. Parish said that the volunteers have excellent leadership with Capt. Kyle and Chief Crivello, and they are training constantly and being brought up the State Fire Marshal's standards.

Parish said that the Farmersville Firefighters would like to have a &#8220home to hang their hat's,” and that &#8220they'd waited a long time,” to ask for a new fire station. An ideal property for the fire station would be centrally located and would help ensure 24-hour coverage for the community.

&#8220A fire station would help us go to 24 hour staffing, and give the volunteers a meeting place, a resting place, and would help improve response time,” Kyle said.

Crivello said he was proud of the volunteer fire service in Farmersville. He said the city had done a good job since starting its own fire department 20 years ago, but it was time to make necessary improvements for a growing population.

Acting City Manager Rene Miller said if the new building were built within the city's redevelopment area, taxes would pay for the building. She suggested the city could either tear down the old City Hall and build a new fire station, which is a good central location, or purchase the property on Front Street, even though the south side of the property belongs to the railroad company.

Crivello suggested building a joint police and fire facility to save the city money. The City Council instructed Miller to look into purchasing property for a new fire station.

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