Over the last several years, the landscape and skyline of Scottsdale has dramatically changed.
Those changes have caused public safety authorities to rethink their emergency response and firefighting strategies in what now is an urban setting filled with high-rise condominiums, hotels and retail developments.
Scottsdale leaders today will break ground on a 12,000-square-foot fire station near the northwest corner of Indian School and Miller roads. The station will serve downtown and part of south Scottsdale by 2008, enabling firefighters to be better prepared to battle high-rise structure fires.
“We’re turning into a big city,” said Scottsdale Fire Department Capt. Sean Newton, who works out of Station 601 at 2857 N. Miller Road. “When you start adding high rises, you increase the potential of receiving more emergency calls. Instead of spreading out by having about a half dozen houses in a development, you’re going up and have a denser population in one concentrated area.”
The $4.6 million Station 602 will be the first of five new stations built throughout the city under the fire department’s five-year capital improvement plan and will feature an engine crew, a ladder truck equipped with 100-foot aerial ladders and house the headquarters for the south battalion chief.
The station will be built on property west of a CVS Pharmacy and is expected to alleviate the pressure of a high number of calls at Station 601, where two engine crews and a battalion chief are stationed. Right now, that smaller station houses 13 firefighters at any time and receives well over 30 calls a day, which makes it the busiest station in the city, Newton said.
Plans for Station 602 fall in line with Fire Chief William McDonald’s goal of responding to emergencies within four minutes at least 80 percent of the time.
He set that goal soon after the city started its own fire department July 1, 2005, when it ended decades of service with the Rural/Metro Fire Department.
In 2006, the city’s average response time was four minutes and 15 seconds, according to deputy chief Rod Thompson.
“Downtown Scottsdale is growing like a weed,” Thompson said. “We need to get more fire resources to that part of town sooner than later.”
Station 602 has been in the planning stages for at least three years after the city purchased the 1.4-acre site for $1.2 million about three years ago, said deputy chief Rich Upham, who is overseeing construction of the five stations.
Station 602 also will feature three bays for the fire trucks and a community meeting room for civic groups, Upham said.
“Station 602 will be the crown jewel of our stations,” said deputy chief Brian Sturdivant, who oversees training. “This will allow us to have a presence in the central downtown area, which we didn’t have before, and we’ll be able to cover a larger area. It’ll be a big move for us.”
Within the next three years, the nearly 40-year-old Station 601, is expected to be closed and some of its personnel likely will be sent to the new downtown station or to one planned for the intersection of McDowell and Miller roads that also will serve downtown and south Scottsdale near Arizona State University’s SkySong project at McDowell and Scottsdale roads.
Within the last year, all shifts of firefighters have received hands-on training inside the recently completed 13-story Scottsdale Waterfront residences at Scottsdale and Camelback roads.
Although slightly shorter in height than the older Amtrust bank building nearby, the 366-unit Scottsdale Waterfront could generate more emergency calls because they house more people, Newton said.
Fighting a fire in a highrise structure means the need of more people to do the same job.
“You have to go through more of a physical training to be able to fight a high-rise fire,” Newton said.
“The main difference is the fatigue factor. You have to make sure you’re in good enough shape to make it up the stairs. Logistically, it’s a different job. You have to familiarize yourself with the structure so you can utilize stairwells and be able to secure elevators and identify potential hazards in the buildings.”
South Scottsdale has seen about 2,600 new residential units built or planned since 2003. Of those, 2,166 are located downtown, according to a January 2006 city report.
Besides the southern stations, new ones in the north are planned for Jomax and Scottsdale roads, 100th Street and Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard and Cave Creek and Pima roads.
Construction of the five stations will be paid for through revenue from the city’s General Fund, according to Upham.