Where and when Madison will build fire station 15

As the city's population grows, so does the need for emergency services

MADISON, Wis. — It’s 2020, and the city of Madison continues to grow. Dane County added an average of about 6,000 residents each year from 2010-2019. City officials expect that growth to continue in the new decade.

While many people are moving to suburban communities like Sun Prairie, Middleton, and Verona, Madison hasn’t been left behind.

And that raises safety concerns, like the need for more fire stations.

Where Station 15 will go:

“Currently the call volume on the isthmus is increasing by about five to ten-percent annually,” Chief Steven Davis said. “We are seeing some pressure due to that volume, however, we’re currently handing it with what we have. I would predict within the next five years the city will need to address more call resources as the call requests continue to rise.”

Part of Davis’ job is to analyze data. Specifically, stat calls. A stat call is a time when one department has to call for help from another because they’re too busy to respond to an emergency in their zone.

“When we start to see five, six, or seven stat calls in a 24-hour period, that raises concerns as chief that we need to increase resources,” said Davis.

Right now, Davis says the isthmus isn’t receiving an alarming number of stat calls, but several local communities are. Davis is working with city planning on the possibility of building in three other areas: northeast of the airport, on the far-west side of town near Epic, and in far-east Madison near the Sprecher Road area.

How long it will take to build a new station:

Davis says the entire process, from planning and designing to building and eventually opening, will take six to seven years.

Right now, the city is making do with its current 14 fire stations. Station 14 officially marked one year in business this month. Since its opening in January of 2019, response times have dropped from an average of about ten minutes to four.

But Davis says the city’s newest station still falls short in one area.

How Chief Davis is working to expand services right now:

“Our EMS system needs another ambulance added,” said Davis. “We are currently working with the mayor and alders to ensure that we have staffing for a ninth ambulance in 2021.”

Throughout the majority of Madison, a 911 call will get an ambulance to the caller in nine minutes 90% of the time. According to Davis, a nine-minute response time is only achievable 53% of the time for calls within Station 14’s territory.

Between Sept. 15 and Oct. 30, 2019, the city had seven instances where it ran out of available medic units.

“We have 8 ambulances city-wide,” said Davis. “There’s hardly a day that goes by that we aren’t down to just one ambulance available city-wide. And about three to four times a week, we are out of ambulances.”

Davis says Station 14 has an ambulance. It just isn’t staffed. That causes a domino effect where responding ambulances aren’t able to serve their assigned territories, and they have to rely on other stations across the city.

He hopes the city will have an ambulance staffing plan in place by the end of this year.