Georgetown’s growth is beginning to strain the fire department’s ability to respond to an incident within four minutes as recommended by the National Fire Protection Association, said Fire Chief Tim Thompson during a city council work session Monday. No official decision can be made during a work session.
Thompson presented a proposal to build a fourth fire station off Lexus Way, near the Toyota Child Care Center at an estimated cost of $3.2 million. The fire station would be built adjacent, and possibly part of an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) building under consideration by the Scott County Fiscal Court. Early projections for the cost of the EMS building are $5.3 million, but that project has not been let out for bids and is pending final approval by the fiscal court. Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky is providing the land for the project.
Once approved, the project will likely take 16 to 18 months of construction, he said.
During the 90-minute presentation, Thompson pointed out the county’s 2011 and 2012 comprehensive plans warned against outgrowing service areas, and as far back as 2006 discussions were held for a fourth city fire station. It was 1996 when Georgetown last expanded its protection coverage with the downtown fire station, Thompson said.
Georgetown currently has three fire stations, 141 South Broadway, 200 Morgan Mill Road and 101 Jacobs Drive and a fire prevention/code enforcement office at 125 West Clinton St.
The fourth fire station would cover Pleasant Valley, Barkley Meadows, portions including new developments planned on Old Oxford Road and Oxford Drive, as well as TMMK, which has its own fire department and Lane’s Run Business Park. Current population in the proposed service area is 3,437, based upon the 2020 Census, and does not include the number of people who work at TMMK and other industries in the area Thompson said.
“We are currently out of the NFPA 1710 four-minute response for structure fires in this area,” he said.
The in the presentation, Thompson outlined a structural fire in the Pleasant Valley subdivision in which GFD responded in 5:39 minutes, even though the “turnout” for the firefighters was 68 seconds.
“That’s from a dead sleep in the middle of the night to on the fire engine,” Thompson said. NFPA standards call for an 80 second turnout and a four minute response from station to the fire location.
Several times the fire chief was asked by council members about the automatic aid agreement with the Scott County Fire Department, which has a station on U.S. 25, near the Cherry Blossom/Delaplain intersection.
“Their help is dependent upon their own calls, and the proximity of the fire to their station,” Thompson. “They’ll respond if they can, but this is our responsibility.”
The Georgetown Fire Department is facing similar staffing issues as the Georgetown Police Department — losing firefighters to retirement and nearby communities that pay more, he said. Currently, GRD is down five positions, but there are three new employees in training.
The major challenge for the fourth fire station is manning the station, which would require 12 shift personnel at a recurring annual cost of about $7.2 million. The staffing would include one captain and three firefighters per shift.
Currently, GFD has 51 frontline firefighters including three battalion chiefs, 12 captains and 36 firefighters along with six administrative positions such as chief, two assistant chiefs, one fire marshal, one training chief and an administrative assistant. In 1999, Georgetown had 2.78 firefighters per 1,000 residents; today that figure is at 1.63 firefighters per 1,000 residents, Thompson said.
NFPA standards call for 17 personnel for a structural fire, but due to staffing issues, GFD has a current minimum of 14 personnel on site, he said.
The fire chief proposes the city file for a federal Safer Grant which would pay for 12 GFD firefighters for three years with the city assuming the payroll costs February 2027. The estimated grant would be $1.1 million each year. The deadline to file is March 17 with grants awarded sometime late this summer. Once grants are awarded GFD would have six months to make the hires, he said.
Because of its staffing and NFPA standards, the minimum number of positions GFD could file for would be 12, which upholds the standards of four personnel per fire unit, Thompson said.
Georgetown used the Safer Grant in 2007, which enabled GFD to start manning each fire unit with four personnel.