Chesterton Tribune

Expect longer fire department response times if Chesterton annexations continue

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Guest Commentary

By LOWELL G. BLACK

Fire Protection Engineer

and Chesterton resident

The annexation discussions currently going on within the Town of Chesterton are missing a key element of public services. That element is the distribution of fire/rescue services within Chesterton. The Town has experienced a lot of growth in the last few years. Unfortunately the growth of fire and rescue services has not been commensurate with the annexation growth.

The Chesterton Fire Department is now responsible for providing service to a geographic area that is roughly bounded by State Highway 149 on the west, The LaPorte County line on the east, Oak Hill road on the north and the Indiana Toll Road on the south. Now there are other jurisdictions that break that area up somewhat, but the distances remain for the Chesterton Fire Department.

In the July 16, 2007 issue of the Chesterton Tribune, CFD personnel confirm that it took six minutes to respond to the fire in Dogwood Estates on July 15, 2007. They also confirm that an emergency response to Crocker takes 10 minutes. I can tell you as a former firefighter and fire chief, that a 10 minute head start on a house fire puts the homeowner in a very dangerous situation if they did not immediately escape the fire, and it puts firefighters in an extremely dangerous position as it is likely flashover has already occurred or will occur shortly after their arrival. Even with complete firefighter turnout gear, a firefighter cannot survive a flashover. I live in Abercrombie Woods and am concerned over the lack of fire/rescue services planning by the Town Council.

Recent annexations to the Town have required the developers to do such things as provide utilities, roads, sidewalks, green space, sometimes parks, but never land for fire stations to serve the new growth. That is because the Town Council has not developed a plan for providing fire/rescue services with response times that are near any sort of national standard or for that matter within the average response times of the CFD in years past.

Many situations compete for the time of the Town Council and I applaud our Town Council for their work and their efforts. There are many programs that are pulling at the Council for attention and funding. Many of these programs are important to the Town as they affect the quality of life in Chesterton. But this issue affects having a life to live in the Town of Chesterton. It is a basic service required of local government. We can choose whether or not we are going to use a park. We can choose whether or not we will take compost materials to the Town site. We can choose whether or not we will have the Town pick up brush in the Spring. But when it is your home on fire, or your loved one having a heart attack, or a neighborhood child struck by a car, you do not have a choice but to use the services of the Chesterton Fire Department in the Town of Chesterton.

The status quo is not acceptable. The size and geographical layout of Chesterton and Westchester Township has created this situation and there is an immediate need to correct it. I call on the Town Council to begin the planning and funding process to construct a neighborhood fire station in the west end of Chesterton in the area of Dogwood Park to alleviate the response time problem in the western half of the Town. Likewise, a new multipurpose fire station should be constructed on the east side somewhere along the State Road 49 corridor. This will alleviate a huge amount of the response problems in the Town now as well as proposed annexation sites east of Sand Creek and south of the Indiana Toll Road.

The firefighters in Chesterton do a great job with the resources they have been given. But our public policy decisions are keeping the fire department hamstrung in their abilities to provide the level of service that we would expect. It is time to help out Chief Highwood and his department and provide these resources. I fervently hope that we can move positively in that direction.

 

Posted 7/23/2007