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The City Journals

South Jordan fire department adapts to growing city

Apr 07, 2021 11:56AM ● By Mariden Williams

When South Jordan’s much-anticipated Station 64 opens in May 2021, Station 61 (pictured here) will send its fire engine and associated staff to Station 64 until a new fire engine can be purchased. (Mariden Williams/City Journals)

By Mariden Williams | [email protected]

As South Jordan grows, its fire department receives more and more calls for service. In 2020, the fire department received 200 more calls than it did the year before—and if it weren't for the pandemic, it probably would have received even more. 

"We think this is a pretty conservative trend, and we think we'll actually exceed this as we move forward," said South Jordan Fire Chief Chris Dawson. "When we put more people in smaller areas, that tends to increase our calls for service. Also the addition of senior living facilities and 55 and older developments—those are always hotspots for us."

Even as the number of calls for service goes up, call processing and alert times are going down, thanks to automation. Last October, the department implemented a computer-aided dispatch system that has sped up the dispatching process significantly. Sometime this quarter, the department will also be implementing new 911 interrogation software, which Dawson is optimistic will reduce dispatch processing times even further.

"Our overall turnout times continue to trend down, meaning that from the time we get alerted to the time our folks are out the door, that is trending down,” Dawson said. “So our people are taking it seriously and getting out the door quickly, which we love to see. However, our overall response and travel times continue to increase. Obviously, as we continue to grow and develop farther away from our existing fire stations, there are more road miles to be covered."  

This problem of distance should be somewhat mitigated by the construction of Fire Station 64, a combination fire station, police substation, and city hall annex with 30,000 square feet of floor space. The new facility, located at 5443 West Lake Ave., is scheduled to open this May.

"We're excited for that facility to come on board,” Dawson said. “That's really going to help us immensely as far as our ability to respond. I believe that station 64 will be one of the busiest stations in the valley at build out."

This year, the fire department was approved for nine new employees, who should all be fully onboarded by the end of fiscal year 2021. To fully staff Station 64, officials will need to hire seven more employees and buy an additional fire engine. Until that happens, they're engaging in some creative resource-arranging strategies. When Station 64 opens, the fire engine and accompanying staff from Station 61 will be transferred to Station 64, since Station 64 is located in a busier area. This means that Station 61 won't have a fire engine of its own until a new one can be procured. According to Dawson, a new fire engine will cost around $800,000, while ladder trucks are about $1.4 million.

The department has already added a new full-time ambulance. It will be the city's third full-time ambulance, and it should be in service by this April.

"That's going to help us a lot," Dawson said. "Our two full-time ambulances right now are running all day, all night. They're really very busy."

Dawson speculates that to keep on top of calls in the coming years, city leaders will need to add several new fire stations, as well as a training facility; currently, South Jordan's firefighters receive training in nearby cities such as Sandy and West Valley. He also strongly recommends creating an education division to train residents to better take care of themselves while they wait for first responders to arrive.

"At best, when 64 is fully staffed, we'll have four fire engines and three full-time ambulances inside the city,” he said. “That's going to be tapped very quickly should we have widespread emergency. It's important that we train our community to basically help themselves for that first time period in an emergency. So we believe that having an education division is going to be key to us in the future. We constantly get requests from the community for educational services, and those requests continue to increase. What we've done in the past is, our full-time staff or firefighters have gone out to do many of these classes. But as they become busier, their availability to do that has decreased significantly."