EDINBURGH, Ind. — Edinburgh town officials say fire and rescue response times have been cut in half, and the town now has 24/7 fire department staffing for the first time in its history.
“It gives us the opportunity to provide round-the-clock coverage,” said Edinburgh Fire Chief, Michael Herron.
Last year, Herron and town officials set out to expand fire and rescue service to the town of roughly 4,600. At that time, the department had a total of eight employees, including former Chief Allen Smith, who remained on call 24/7.
Responding to fire or medical runs typically meant firefighters were responding from home. Response times were averaging just under 11 minutes, according to Herron.
“Which is no fault of anything that we’d done before,” Herron said. “It’s just the result of somebody being here on station and ready to respond at the time of call.”
For 2020, Edinburgh Town Manager, JT Doane says he and other town officials were able to find enough money in the town’s coffers to triple the fire department’s budget from roughly $300,000 to $1.1 million.
“Fiscally responsible spending will allow you to have fiscally responsible savings,” Doane said. “So fortunately we were able to have funding available that we could make that commitment.”
The budget increase means Chief Herron how has four full-time employees, including himself, and 40 more firefighters working on paid standby. The paid standby firefighters work several shifts per week, depending on availability, at a $12 per hour rate.
“We’ve been very fortunate there’s been a lot of excitement around the program,” Herron said. “A lot of people want to get started in the fire service.”
Edinburgh now has three to five employees at its two fire stations 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
As of July, average response times were down under six minutes.
“Minutes count,” Herron said. “Especially, you know, fires double in size every minute.”
Edinburgh was also able to recently purchase a 2003 aerial truck and an SUV from the Franklin Fire Department for about $125,000. A new aerial truck would have cost over $1 million, Herron said.
Doane said the expansion of the fire and rescue services is intended to increase public safety at a time when residential and industrial development is increasing in different parts of Edinburgh.
“That allows all of us as leaders and those within the community to rest better, knowing that if we need fire and EMS, we have that 24-hour coverage,” Doane said. “And we have that available daily.”