Chief: Southeast side fire station pushed back additional 2 years

Madison Fire Dept.

Madison fire Chief Steve Davis said Monday the latest capital budget from Mayor Paul Soglin would push back construction of a fire station on the city’s far southeast side from 2018 to 2020.

Neighborhoods south of the Beltline near the McFarland city limits have some of the longest fire and EMS response times in the city.

Davis said the average response time to the far southeast side is 9 1/2 minutes, compared to a citywide average of 6 1/2 minutes and an ideal response time of 5 minutes.

A News 3 investigation in November 2015 revealed average response times of 11-13 minutes for certain neighborhoods on the southeast side.

That’s because these neighborhoods are served by Madison Fire Department Station 5, which is nearly 5 miles north on Cottage Grove Road.

“It’s not an ideal location to serve that area,” Davis said. “They’re essentially covering two areas out of one station.”

John Kosobucki has experienced those long response times firsthand. When his 91-year-old father, also named John, fainted in early 2015, he called 911, hoping help would arrive quickly. Instead, he said, precious minutes ticked away before first responders came to their southeast side home.

“At the time, we thought he was probably having a stroke,” Kosobucki said. “It was at least 15 or 20 minutes before the ambulance got here. We waited and waited and it seemed like forever.”

Kosobucki said his father survived the fall, but he still worries about response times to future emergencies and said as a taxpayer, the city should provide adequate fire services to all of its residents, even those on the outskirts.

“(The delay) is just not good,” Kosobucki said. “When you’re in the city, you expect the city to respond to areas that are in the city in an appropriate manner.”

Neighborhood leaders are also concerned about the two-year delay.

Cody Lundquist, president of the Liberty Place Neighborhood Association, said residents are concerned about response times and are pushing for the city to build the fire station sooner rather than later.

“This is a startup neighborhood with a lot of children and a lot families and they need to be protected,” Lundquist said.

Davis said the need for a southeast side fire station is made all the more urgent by continued growth in the area. He said projections have the area’s call volume increasing 12 percent annually.

“As we add more residents, as we add more businesses and commercial activity in that area, we start to see the need and the demand,” Davis said. “We’re really at our pressure point and our threshold for the amount of calls.”

Kosobucki said Madison leaders should factor in the city’s ability to provide public safety services before expanding its borders.

“Don’t annex way out in the country if you can’t provide the services,” Kosobucki said. “Let’s get the fire station built, or let’s work out some mutual aid response to these surrounding communities that are much closer.”

News 3 reached out to Soglin’s office for comment but did not receive a response as of Monday night.