Minot’s fifth fire station is scheduled to be open later this year, improving the Fire Department’s response times and coverage areas.
In preparation for the new station, Fire Department officials and other City of Minot personnel have created new coverage districts to accommodate Fire Station 5, located in northwest Minot along Fourth Avenue NW. The Fire Department, Aleesha Erickson in the Engineering Department, and members of the Assessor’s Office worked together to build the new maps.
The Fire Department currently uses four coverage districts, but a fifth district was created, impacting the existing districts.
“It’s been an ongoing process, but once we got into the nitty-gritty of it, it didn’t take too long,” Battalion Chief Jason Babinchak said. “Getting the GIS data probably took about a week to put together, and then for our staff, we got it done in about two weeks spread out over a month or two. We created some proposals, then we discussed it with Chief Kelli Kronschnabel, our battalion chiefs, and some of the crews who would be responding to incidents. Then we made adjustments to have the best service and protection for the residents of Minot.”
The end result sounds simple enough – create a coverage map with five districts rather than four districts. In reality, the process is complex and involves planning ahead for as many potential scenarios as possible.
There are a lot of things to consider when creating fire coverage districts, including historic call data, traffic patterns, snow routes, school locations, distances from each fire station, Minot’s topography and terrain, and many more.
“We’re looking for the quickest response times we can have, based on normal weather conditions, road conditions, and other issues,” Babinchak said. “But mapping can only take into account so much. We also know from experience that, for instance, we don’t want to drive past schools during busy periods of the day because of the possibility of injuries and to avoid traffic that can slow us down.”
The district covered by Fire Station 2 (located near downtown on Third Street NE) will see significant changes with the addition of Fire Station 5.
“Station 2 used to be our busiest station because it’s downtown and they cover the center portion of town where there’s activity 24 hour a day,” Babinchak said. “A lot of people work downtown, there are a lot of apartment buildings, restaurants, and other businesses, so there are a high number of people in that area most of the day and night.”
Station 2 currently covers a large area that includes northwest Minot along Fourth Avenue. That will change with the new coverage maps when Station 5 opens; most of Station 5’s coverage area formerly belonged to Station 2.
“Station 2 will lose some of its coverage area on the west side of Minot, but Station 1 is responding a lot further south and east than ever before, so we’re giving some areas of Station 1’s district to Station 2 because they can respond faster,” Babinchak said. “We felt this was the right time to make these adjustments with Station 5 coming online. This will help even out some of the call volumes and improve overall response times by balancing out the districts.”
When adding the fifth district, fire officials try to use as many main roads or geographical landmarks as possible to keep the district lines clear.
“That helps with ease of operations and it also helps our personnel to know there is a clear dividing line,” Babinchak said.
Some locations are close to the boundaries of two coverage districts, which leads to discussion among Fire Department officials as how to best provide timely coverage to that location.
“As an example, maybe Station 2 looks closer on the map, but when we take into consideration topography, terrain, the street system and potential traffic, maybe we decide it’s better to have Station 5 cover that area,” Babinchak said. “For us, it’s all about what’s the most efficient and fastest way to respond to a given location. That’s what drives the design of our coverage districts.”