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Friday, December 21, 2007

Milton, Alpharetta Plan to Fight Fires With Cooperation Station

Crews may be shared
By DOUG NURSE The Atlanta Journal-Constitution / www.ajc.com

The cities of Alpharetta and Milton are hammering out a plan to allow Milton to house a firetruck in an Alpharetta station near their border, and would commit both fire departments to battle blazes on either side of the boundary.

"Citizens of both cities win," said Milton Mayor Joe Lockwood. "It makes sense that when the 911 call comes in, the dispatcher can say, 'Who's closest and can get there the quickest."

In some areas of Alpharetta, such as Crab-apple, Milton's fire station is closer than Alpharetta's nearest fire station. And in some areas of Milton, such as Deerfield and Windward parkways, Alpharetta can respond more quickly to emergency calls than Milton's fire crews can.
So, public safety staff in the two cities brainstormed a concept in which Milton can park its "quint," a multi-use ladder truck, in one of Alpharetta's stations. That would allow Alpharetta to redeploy some of its trucks for better protection in other parts of the city.

And both cities' firefighters along the border would respond to fire regardless of jurisdictional issues.

The details are still being negotiated, but city council members are enthusiastic about the prospect of better coverage. If all goes well, an agreement could be in place by summer.
"We have worked with other cities, but not to the extent of having apparatus in our stations," said Alpharetta City Councilman Jim Paine. "There are turf issues all over the place, but here, common sense prevailed."

Typically, fire departments stay within their respective boundaries unless asked for help.
Milton Deputy Public Safety Director Charles Millican said the proposed arrangement would address several potential problems.

The quint, a behemoth of a vehicle, has no home in the day. While the sun's up, it goes from site to site in the retail centers and office parks around Deerfield and Windward parkways. At sunset, unless called, it retires to a large station on Birmingham Road, across the city. While there are still fire engines based on Thompson Road nearby, they lack the aerial ladder that can better target hotspots.

The agreement being negotiated would allow the quint to remain in the area most at risk of a large fire, Millican said.

Because the Alpharetta station is a mile or two closer, it would cut response times to that area from six minutes to three minutes, he said.

The Milton Public Safety Department would be tapped into Alpharetta's 911 system, which would choose the nearest unit regardless of jurisdiction.

Milton would pay about half of the $26,000 operations cost for the Alpharetta station. Building a new station, Millican said, would cost up to $3 million.

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