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Fire crews in north Phoenix hotel improving response times

Posted at 5:48 PM, Mar 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-06 23:33:00-05

In an emergency, every second counts. Now imagine, you need the fire department, but you have to wait up to 15 minutes for them to respond.

It's the reality for one part of north Phoenix near the Norterra Community. 

They don't have a fire station closeby. But, Phoenix fire says they have a short-term solution that for now appears to be working. 

The urgency for a solution was kicked into another gear when a fire burned a local playground at the Norterra Community Center. 

No one was injured but firefighters arriving more than 13 minutes later painted a picture of a potential tragedy waiting to happen.

"Just made us start to think what if a fire did happen to a house or what if a child choked at the nearest elementary school," said Michelle Ricart. 

Ricart said the scenarios are endless and scary

"So I'm really excited," Ricart said. 

Ricart is excited because she knows those concerns are a thing of the past. 

"In that area of town we were seeing response times averaging about 12 minutes," said Captain Larry Subervi of the Phoenix Fire Department. 

Double the amount of time Phoenix fire says it should take to respond, putting lives at risk. That's when the community took action. 

"We all got together, I actually run a fire sight resident page, and we signed a petition," Ricart said. 

Determined, Ricart and her band of neighbors bombarded city leaders for a solution. 

But it wouldn't be easy. In 2006 the city planned to build a permanent station in the area until the economy crashed in 2008

"We couldn't build a station, we had some land there we just didn't have the funds for it," Subervi said. 

Instead, they turned to an unusual temporary fix. 

"The way the firefighters in hotels came up was literally a meeting of us going hey what are we going to do up there, and one person in the room says hey there's hotels up there why don't we just put fireman in hotels," Subervi said. 

"You could hear a pin drop and a light went off, and we got on the phone calling around to hotels to see who would play ball."

The four-man crew now calls the Marriott Residence Inn near Happy Valley Road and 19th avenue, Station 55. 

In the last month, they've responded to 72 medical calls and two fires, cutting their response time in half. 

Their effort not going unnoticed as neighbors like Ricart drop off supplies and water to say thank you. 

"Five minutes to 12 minutes is a drastic difference when we're talking about life and death," Subervi said.

Phoenix fire hopes to have a permanent station built in the area in the next 18 to 24 months.