LA CROSSE, WI - All of La Crosse's 4 fire departments are more than 50 years old - and along with old buildings, they're dealing with locations that haven't changed in half a century.
They're all located in downtown and north side neighborhoods. That has firefighters fighting at a disadvantage when it comes to responding to south side calls in a timely manner.
"Not only do we face the problems of aging facilities, but because of their location, it lowers their response time to an incident in the far part of the city," said City Council member Doug Happel. "The population in La Crosse has gradually moved to the south, and yet our fire stations are located in the middle to the north of the city."
A city study produced these lower response results more than 2 years ago - but city officials say there just isn't the money necessary to build a new station.
"The need is there, the ability to fund it is very difficult," Happel said.
Instead, the fire department is making do with what they have and fixing the biggest problems - like last year's floor replacement at Station One.
This year, they're hoping to replace Station Three's 50-year-old generator, which is battery-operated. Station One received a new one a couple of years ago.22245110
Despite the need for a new station, the fire department's response times are under four minutes more than 85 percent of the time, according to Assistant Fire Chief Warren Thomas. Council members say they hear nothing but praise from the community for the department's timeliness.
But still, Thomas says he would like that south side station.
"At some point in time the city's going to need a new station on the southeast side," he said.
The money isn't there and likely won't be for a while, but city officials haven't really forsaken the department - a new radio system for the fire and police departments has been approved in the 2014 proposed budget. Council members also say they understand the importance of response time to the individuals at the other end of the call.
"The problem is, of course, it's your house that's burning, is there a difference between a 2-minute response time and a 4-minute response time? Probably is," Happel said.
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