Despite protests, Dayton’s Bluff fire engine replaced with medic unit


Marjorie Otto/Review • Residents from Dayton’s Bluff, along with St. Paul City Council members Jane Prince, Ward 7, and Dan Bostrom, Ward 6, gathered at Fire Station 7 on Jan. 22 to protest the replacement of Engine 7 with a medic unit.

On a snowy Jan. 22, about 20 Dayton’s Bluff neighbors, along with St. Paul City Council members Jane Prince, Ward 7, and Dan Bostrom, Ward 6, gathered at Fire Station 7 near the corner of Ross and Earl streets to protest the removal of Engine 7, which will be replaced by a medic unit. 

The plan to bring in the medic unit was included in the 2018 budget proposed by former Mayor Chris Coleman, and was based off an outside study of the fire department released in the summer of 2017 that analyzed emergency calls in St. Paul. 

The study found that less than 5 percent of calls were fire related, and said there needed to be adjustments made to better handle medical emergency calls. 

Fire Station 7, which is more than 85 years old, is one of two stations in St. Paul without a medic unit. It does not have the space to house both a fire engine and a medic unit.

While fire calls have dropped city-wide, the East Side accounts for the majority of the fire calls in St. Paul, with areas like Payne-Phalen and the southeastern corner — Conway, Eastview, Highwood Hills and Battle Creek — of the East Side reporting the most fires. From April 2016 to March 2017 the East Side experienced about $3 million in losses due to fire. 

“With some of the city’s oldest wood frame housing stock, its highest percentage of vacant housing, and among its largest concentrations of poverty, fire risk is far higher in our neighborhoods,” Prince said. “Let there be no mistake, this is an equity issue.”

Bostrom echoed Prince’s comments, adding that what the area really needs is to expand Fire Station 7 to make room for a medic unit, in addition to keeping Engine 7. There’s been talk about the need for a larger fire station in the community, though it’s unclear when such a project would come together.

 

Personal connections

Residents based some of their concerns about changes to service at the station on personal experiences.

Kevin Tetu, who has lived on the East Side for some 60 years near Earl and Margaret streets, said he thinks of the fire station as a part of his family, and was not in favor of the removal of Engine 7.

During the Jan. 22 gathering at the station, he tearfully recalled how, years ago, firefighters came to help clean up the place near Margeret Park where his father, Roger Tetu, was killed by a driver who fled scene.

He also described an accident where his sister cut her wrists on glass, walked to the station and was found by firefighters collapsed outside.

“They’re a big part of the community,” he said. “We appreciate them and their service.”

 

Swap moves ahead

Despite the protests, on Jan. 23, Mayor Melvin Carter announced that he was moving forward with the redeployment plan. 

Engine 7 is moving to Fire Station 20, located near University Avenue and Vandalia Street, to be replaced by a medic unit. While Station 7 may have lost its engine, a ladder truck will still be housed there. 

“I appreciate the thoughtful approach that the St. Paul Fire Department, Local 21 and Local 3939 have engaged with the development of this plan,” Carter said in a statement. “I’m confident that this plan will help meet our residents’ needs, both on the East Side and throughout all of St. Paul.”

Interim fire Chief Butch Inks said in a statement, “This plan meets the immediate needs of our residents in the City of St. Paul.”

 


– Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto.

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