Nov 19, 2012 9:55 PM by Nikki Ibarra
Five full-time fire stations are now open in the city of Santa Maria.
The newest station is located on the north end of town, east of Highway 101.
Fire officials predict it will greatly improve how fast their crews can respond to calls for help.
KSBY's Nikki Ibarra spent Monday afternoon at the new fire station.
The station has been in the works for 12 years. Thanks to funds from a federal SAFER grant and Measure U, it's running 24/7, providing help that can save critical minutes in a fire or medial emergency.
"There will be three here everyday, 24/7 for the, hopefully for eternity now," said Captain Mike Farmer of the Santa Maria Fire Department.
For Captain Farmer, this day reminds him of his first day with the department almost 10 years ago. "This end of the city has been busy for a number of years and to be able to share that work load with the rest of the people that I work with will be good," added Captain Farmer.
In fact, the north end of town generates almost two-thirds of emergency calls from the entire city. "The city grew faster than the fire department did," said Chief Dan Orr of the Santa Maria Fire Department.
Chief Orr said before having five fully staffed stations, the response time was five minutes or less, 58% of the time. With the new station 5 up and running, that response time should jump to 90%.
"For the first time maybe ever in the city's history the fire department is much closer to being properly staffed than it has been before," said Chief Orr.
Measure U, the quarter of a cent city sales tax increase and the $1.6 million federal grant were key sources of funding for staffing the fire department.
"It's going to be fun to look at this over the next couple of months and see if response times get better," added Chief Orr.
"When we're given the opportunity to save somebody's life those, those minutes count and seconds even count," said Captain Farmer.
Chief Orr hopes Measure U, which took into effect October 1, will bring in about $1.4 million a year to the fire department.
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