City wants input on fire dept.

Published 6:33 am Sunday, June 10, 2012

Albert Lea city leaders are asking for the public’s input on what direction the city should go with its fire department.

The city hosted a public meeting Wednesday to allow people the opportunity to hear about the review conducted earlier this year on the department. However, less than 30 people attended the meeting and many who did were either on the department or were other city staff.

Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said because of this and because the city has not heard much feedback about the recommendations in the review, the city will make the presentation video available online and on the government access channel. The report is available on the city’s website and at the Albert Lea Public Library to check out.

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People are encouraged to contact their city councilor with concerns or feedback, he said.

The report, released Monday for public review, was completed by Florida-based consultant firm Almont Associates.

The firm was looking at whether there should be changes in staffing for the department, along with what should be done with the existing fire station and who should lead the department. The evaluation comes as the city is dealing with tight budget times with the loss of state funding and other revenue.

It recommends against Albert Lea moving to an all-volunteer fire department and calls for the building of a new fire station, collaboration with other departments and increased productivity.

It also examines the possibility of implementing fire response fees or fire inspection fees to help recoup some costs and calls for the replacement of several pieces of equipment, including the city’s ladder truck.

The report was formed after interviews with elected and appointed officials, city department heads, the interim fire chief, neighboring fire chiefs, all the city firefighters and the department’s strategic planning team. It also looked at data about the number and types of calls the department responds to and other statistics such as response times.

Tom Weber, consultant with Almont Associates, said whatever the city chooses to do, it should try to maintain its four-minute average response time.

“Within the first four minutes of a fire, that fire crew that you have on duty has the best chance of maintaining that fire to the room of origin,” Weber said. “Every minute it grows, it grows exponentially.”

The City Council heard the same presentation at its Thursday night preagenda work session.

The councilors asked questions about when Weber recommended a new fires station be built and how to begin sharing fire services with neighboring communities.

Weber said he saw a new station as a high priority and recommended it be completed in the next five years.

He said as far as sharing services, the other departments just have a fear that the city is going to take them over. He recommended at first simply letting the other departments know that if they need help they can call for it.

Weber also talked about how Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea would like to see the firefighters act as support on critical calls and also come on calls where they have heavy patients. This would require firefighters to be trained as EMTs.

If this happened, the hospital would even consider placing one of its reserve ambulances at the station.

To hear Weber’s presentation, go to to find a link to the video.