fire station no. 7

Fire station closest to university hill area may close amid budget cuts

Jenny Jakubowski | Staff Photographer

Lonnie Johnson, president of the Syracuse Fire Fighters Association, is concerned about the consequences of the potential closure of Fire Station No. 7., the oldest firehouse in Syracuse, and the closest to SU. Johnson said budget cuts are the main reason it may close.

Budget deficits could lead to the closure of the fire station closest to Syracuse University.

“It’s all about the Benjamins,” said Mark McLees, chief of the Syracuse Fire Department. “I wish it was easy, but it’s not. It’s just reality.”

Fire Station No. 7, located at 1039 E. Fayette St., is the closest station to the Hill area, McLees said. It is also the oldest and most rundown station in the city.

Necessary repairs of the floors, windows and bathrooms would be expensive and temporary, he said, but construction of a new firehouse would also be expensive, costing between $7-$10 million, he said.

While McLees emphasized that the future of the station has not been decided, he said he does not expect to receive this money.

McLees said he submitted his budget report to the city last week, but will not know for months how much money will be given to the fire department. Money from the state’s Aid and Incentives to Municipalities program, property taxes and sales taxes will all factor into the amount of money the city allocates to the fire department.

The city is faced with a difficult decision, he said. Many universities, religious institutions and downtown businesses have tax breaks which, among other factors, decrease the amount of revenue the city has to disperse, he said.

“The limited resources available have to be spread out,” McLees said. “Everybody has their hand out, including me.”

Fire Station No. 7 serves approximately half of Syracuse, covering from downtown to the Eastside, said Lonnie Johnson, president of the Syracuse Fire Fighters Association.

The station responded to almost 6,000 calls last year, he said. Engine 7, which is stationed there, responded to more calls than any other engine in the city. Only one other mini-truck responded to more calls than Mini 7, which also operates out of Fire Station No. 7, he said.

Fire Station No. 7 also responded to more calls from SU than any other station, Johnson said. He said it is the closest station to some of the city’s most valuable infrastructures, including hospitals and universities.

Firefighters who work in Fire Station No. 7 are familiar with these unique buildings, which make them valuable as first responders.

“If there’s a fire in one of these buildings, there’s zero visibility,” Johnson said. “You have to feel your way through.”

If the station closes, its firefighters, who are the most familiar with the buildings, will most likely work out of different stations, Johnson said. Therefore, they would necessarily no longer be first responders.

Additionally, the closure of the station would increase the length of time it takes responders to reach fires in the area, which would enable fires to grow or worsen, Johnson said.

“It jeopardizes the students, the faculty and the community,” he added. “It also jeopardizes the firefighters.”

Lance Denno, a retired deputy chief for the Syracuse Fire Department and current Syracuse Common Councilor, said in an email he was concerned about the consequences of closing the station in regard to public safety.

He said the number of firefighters on duty at any given time is 69, the lowest in more than 50 years. At the same time, the number of emergencies has been rising rapidly, he said.

The closure of Fire Station No. 7 “could result in a reduction of the on-duty firefighting and emergency response manpower,” Denno said. “Such a reduction would critically impair public safety and firefighters’ safety as well.”

McLees, the fire chief, also said response time and public safety are serious concerns. While he said no plan has been determined yet, if the station closes, he said it is possible that average response times could stay the same.

“Response time is a function of a lot of things,” he said, explaining that the fire department always directs calls to the closest station that is available, which is not always the closest station physically.

McLees also emphasized that the firefighters themselves are more critical to public safety than the firehouse.

“The people do the work,” he said. “That’s the most important part — the people, not the fire station.”

  • Jack Mehoffer

    $7-$10 million?!! That seems like an exaggerated figure. A fire station built by me was only $2 million and it is huge. Has a training facility and a museum. Besides what’s more valuable in the city than the University? Seems like it should be the first priority for fire protection

  • disqus_fB0qH8JwXC

    With Station 7 being so close to all of the new construction, SU or University Hospital buildings, why don’t they just incorporate a new station in one of those buildings? I agree $7-10 million sounds like a very high figure, I think the Fire Dept. needs to be open minded and do not need a “Mansion” for a firehouse, at any one time it holds two vehicles and 7-10 personnel, why would they need that expensive of a building? It is painfully obvious that Station 7 needs to remain in that part of town, so lets not loose it like when the employees of Carrier Corp and New Process Gear were so greedy and now look, both are gone. Everyone needs to work together and come up with a solution, and not loose this very valuable resource.

  • Dockitec

    As a professional in the Civil engineering field, 7-10 million just about on par for a moderately sized fire station, with the proper equipment to be viable for a building life of 30-50 years. My firm has worked on 3 of these recently in the Orange County & Rockland County areas, all of which had price tags precisely in that range.

  • bml129

    7-10 million will not build them an extravagant fire station. Based on need and new building codes that it will be subject to will drive that cost. I am very familiar with a large portion of the city fire stations
    and cant speak of any that would by any stretch of the imagination be considered “extravagant”. The public will just never understand the true cost of fire protection….I say give the fire and police dept what they are asking for before the city as a whole implodes while its ignorant mayor laughs with all of her buddies on the payroll down to city hall.

  • Kathleen Miles

    So maybe SU should build their own fire station and pay their own firefighters the way they have their own security force; or pay the city to have professional city firefighters man their house. That would expand the force and free up the other houses to cover the rest of the city.

  • Bostonway

    Two suggestions: 1) Cut back the crazy pensions and (faked) disability claims these firemen make. 2) Take some $’s from the hoards of welfare queens for having their 4th or 5th kid with 5 different men. Think I’m being nasty or racist? Look at the stats.

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