Jonesboro Must Add More Fire Stations

JULY 19, 2006 -- POSTED AT 10:45 P.M. CDT

JONESBORO, AR -- Jonesboro is constantly changing, but some things within the city haven't.

"The city has grown so fast that the fire department has not been able to keep up like it should," says Jonesboro's Fire Chief Aaron Keller.

The Insurance Services Office, or ISO, gives fire departments across the nation ratings based on a scale from 1 to 10. The lower the number the better, and Jonesboro is currently a Class 3.  However, after last month's review, ISO warned the city that if more stations aren't added, our fire departments could be a Class 4 in some areas, and a shocking Class 9 in others.

"The city in so many words is in a buffer period. We have about 12 to 18 months where we have to start the process or get some things going," says Tim McCall, a member of Jonesboro's City Council and the City Council Fire Chair.

If those classes were to change and receive the higher rating, property insurance rates could increase for some residents. Fire and city officials want to reassure Jonesboro citizens that nothing has changed just yet. The city has basically just been given a warning scenario.

"They're telling us that if we don't do what we say we're going to do, and what we've been planning on doing before they even came, we could be a Class 4," says McCall.

McCall noted that ISO praised the city for areas such as the 911 Service and the City Water and Light Water Supply. There's just one thing that's pushing the city behind.

"It's just the stations that are hurting us, and once we build those stations, we could be at a Class 2," says McCall.

City officials say they have every reason to be confident about the future improvements and what those improvements will do for Jonesboro citizens.

"Property insurance will go down is one benefit. The second benefit is that I'll be getting emergency personnel closer to my customers, the citizens of Jonesboro," says Chief Keller.

"We're going to be in a better position to fight fires, better than we already are. The fire administration, the mayor, and the entire city council are committed to keeping us a Class 3 and moving us to a Class 2," adds Tim McCall.

Chief Keller did say they plan to add a total of six new stations. They are hoping to have the plan approved by the mayor and the council within the next 30 days, moving the building process forward as quickly as possible.