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Mayor: Fire department resources to shift further west in coming years

Fire Department recruits training on Feb. 14, 2020 (Staff photo by James Cullum)

As Alexandria’s population centers continue shifting westward, city leadership is looking at shifting more fire department resources toward the West End.

In his monthly newsletter, Mayor Justin Wilson outlined some of what’s ahead for the Alexandria Fire Department over the next few years.

“The approved Capital Improvement Program for 2023 – 2032 includes $57.5 million of renovation and maintenance funding for the remaining Alexandria fire stations,” Wilson wrote, “including a replacement of Fire Station 205 on Cameron Street and a replacement of Fire Station 208 currently on N. Paxton, with a new station on the existing Landmark Mall site.”

Wilson said five years ago, then-City Manager Mark Jinks oversaw an internal analysis that looked at how to prioritize fire station investments.

“The study did show that response times could be reduced as a result of moving four of the existing fire stations further westward,” Wilson wrote. “This proposal is just that: a suggestion for how the City might be able to optimize public safety response time around our City.”

The change comes as the city also starts to move other services, like the Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS), into the West End.

On the personnel side, the City of Alexandria is in negotiations with the firefighters union over pay and quality of life issues. The city has faced criticism from the union in recent years over inadequate staffing leading to situations like engines being put out of service and annual leave being suspended.

Future West End expansion of fire station coverage will still be costly and won’t happen overnight, Wilson said.

“Implementation will involve land acquisition and costly construction activities,” Wilson wrote. “As we move forward, however, this data can assist us in prioritizing how we invest in our fire stations, as well as take advantage of development and redevelopment activities to improve our infrastructure supporting these critical services.”