Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Juneau Assembly member Beth Weldon, a former Capital City Fire Rescue assistant fire chief, talked about the study that calls for expansion of the department in response to an ever increasing number of calls while a guest on Action Line.
"I think its an initial good first step," she said. City staff will now go through the study commissioned by the department to determine how it should be implemented and make recommendations to the Assembly, according to Weldon.
The increased number of calls spurred the move. Weldon said when she retired in 2012 the number of calls amounted to about 3,200. It's projected to exceed 6,000 calls this year. 'We're just working our poor firefighters in to the ground," Weldon said.
One recommendation calls for building a new fire station in the Lemon Creek area. "Whether that happens or not, that's hard to say. We just kind of have to watch our population a little bit and see where our population is moving around the town." She added that possible future development on the back side of Douglas Island might figure into that.
She felt the only way construction of a new station could happen would be through bonding which voters would be asked to approve.
Weldon was asked of the process employed by the department to present the Assembly an impartial and objective study via an independent contractor. She thought it worked reasonably well, but was disappointed in its simplicity and lack of creativity when it came to solutions. "There could have been some other ways they thought about it," she said. For example she didn't think incorporated the volunteers hardly at all in the study.
Weldon, who was in charge of the volunteers when she was an assistant chief, pointed out that the fire department has always relied on volunteers.She's not sure the city is ready for a fully staffed department, although she acknowledged its become difficult to find volunteers anymore.