Reporting Mireya Villarreal
FORT WORTH (CBS 11 NEWS) – When you call 911 you expect crews to respond within minutes. But if you have an emergency in parts of south Fort Worth, it could take up to 15 minutes for first responders to get to you.
CBS 11’s I-Team Investigator Mireya Villarreal uncovered that this is something city leaders have known about for years.
More and more people have and are moving to south Fort Worth, but no new fire stations have been built there. A map of the area shows, south of Interstate-20 and west of Interstate-35W, there is just one fire station serving the entire area. Despite trying their hardest to respond quickly to emergencies, traffic and infrastructure issues often delay crews from serving the area.
On September 5, 2012, a twin-engine Cessna plane crashed near Spinks Airport on the city’s south side. It took Fort Worth fire crews nearly nine minutes to respond to the crash. In fact, firefighters from Cleburne and Burleson got to the scene quicker, ensuring that the pilot and passenger were safely transported to the hospital.
Councilman Jungus Jordan spoke with CBS 11’s Mireya Villarreal about Fire Station 42. Pointing out his concerns with response times after a deadly car accident happened back in June off Burleson Retta Road.
“There was another incident where we had the Good Samaritan accident, which was actually in the county,” Jordan explained. “We did have some loss of life and we responded to that. But we did that through an interlocal agreement.”
Sheila Moss lives in Councilman Jordan’s area and understands the problem with slower response times all too well. “I just knew I was going to die because my heart was racing, my lungs were getting tight and just squeezing together. It was very scary,” Moss remembered.
Six months ago Moss was having trouble breathing. She says it took an ambulance more than 10 minutes to get to her home.
“I was having a severe asthma attack by the time they got here,” Moss told us. “And maybe if we had a fire station closer I would have been in better shape.
Moss should have a fire station closer. In fact, the CBS 11 I-Team found out the city has been working to get funding for Fire Station 42 for at least five years. They want to build the station right on Spinks Airport property. But since nothing is there yet, the closest responding station, Fire Station 28, picks up all the calls. That station is nearly six miles away.
“It’s critically important. The safety of our citizens is foremost the number one priority for our city,” Councilman Jordan stated.
Jordan says back in 2009 the city counted on a $15 million federal grant from the FAA to help build Fire Station 42. But the FAA denied the city’s application. Then, in 2010, the city tried to use gas well revenues to fund the project; but that plan fell through too. Since then, not much has happened because the city just can’t find the money.
“It’s a major issue and we take it very seriously. And that’s why we’ve attempted twice to get funding for the airport there, Spinks, the solutions we were seeking did not work out,” Jordan added. “I’m going to do everything possible within my power to make sure our citizens pass this bond package so we can get Sphinx built, the fire department built and staffed.”
So, now, city leaders are hoping voters will foot the bill.
“After working with all these agencies and entities, I think that the city and the fire department’s executive staff determined that 14 bond package with the best way to go about securing financing for the station,” Battalion Chief Richard Harrison explained.
But even if taxpayers approve the bond next May, that money would only cover the cost of construction — $4.5 million.
Given the Fort Worth Fire Department’s tight budget this past year, Chief Harrison isn’t sure how they’d staff the station once it’s built.
As a mother of three, Sheila Moss wants to be sure that if she ever has to call 911 for her kids, first responders will be there in minutes. She hopes city leaders will make good on their promise to build Fire Station 42, regardless of whether voters approve the bond.
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