Duluth fire chief floats Park Point compromiseThe city of Duluth is considering steps it can take to soften the blow of the proposed closure of a fire hall on Park Point.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune
The city of Duluth is considering steps it can take to soften the blow of the proposed closure of a fire hall on Park Point.
Duluth Fire Chief John Strongitharm laid out the idea of hiring a community safety officer “to augment our medical response and work on community issues” on the point at a City Council committee of the whole meeting Tuesday night. He suggested such a person could patrol the peninsula during hours of peak need, assisting with medical problems, grass fires and other problems that develop in the neighborhood.
But the primary response to the area would still come from Duluth’s downtown neighborhood, as it does today.
With only one firefighter on duty at the Park Point fire hall, the rig there needs to wait for assistance before gaining entrance to any burning structure, Strongitharm said. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires a minimum of four firefighters be on the scene before entering a burning building.
Relying so heavily on the downtown station has aroused fears among many Park Point residents that emergency responses could be disrupted by marine traffic at the Aerial Lift Bridge.
Strongitharm pointed out that less than 1 percent of calls to the fire department were delayed by bridge lifts during calendar year 2011, and no delay involved what he would consider a true “emergency,” where time is of the essence.
City Councilor Patrick Boyle said he considered the idea of hiring a community health officer “a step in the right direction” and called it a “good compromise” on the part of city administration.
The city could hire someone into the community health officer role yet this summer in conjunction with the proposed closing of the Park Point fire hall, said David Montgomery, Duluth’s chief administrative officer. He said the position potentially could be used to support both fire and police operations, as needed.
Strongitharm also suggested defibrillator machines could be strategically placed in high call areas, and training could be provided to Park Pointers on how to use the machines in the event of someone suffering a heart attack.
But city councilors Sharla Gardner and Jennifer Julsrud both voiced concerns that the city is moving too fast toward the closure of the Park Point fire hall.
Gardner pointed out that two new hotels are soon to be built on the point, and additional development will probably follow.
“This plan does not take into consideration the very near-term plans for Park Point,” she said. “It’s only going to take one bad incident — a heart attack, a fire or some other tragedy — for that to become apparent.”