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Early Data Shows New Cedar Rapids Central Fire Station Improves Response Times

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Firefighters have a brand new central fire station on 1st Avenue Southeast, but did the move pay off in terms of response times?

Three weeks ago, crews started running calls out of the new $20 million building.

"The goal is to get out of the fire station in 60 seconds or less on the road and responding to that call," said Cedar Rapids Fire Department's Greg Buelow.

Firefighters are still learning to deal with the challenges of a station located in the heart of the city.

"Frequently, between 7th and 8th streets here, it is quite busy on 1st Avenue," said Fire Captain Joel Miles.

Officials installed traffic light controls to help. Firefighters simply push one of three buttons to control the intersections near the station when they leave for an emergency. The engine gets a green light to go east, west or onto the interstate.

"They would push that button and then it would activate the signal, it should stop the flow of traffic at 8th Street and 1st Avenue," Buelow explained as he pointed to the lights outside of the fire department.

Crews also have railroad tracks right down the road with trains passing all of the time.

"It happened three times on Saturday," Cpt. Miles said.

Crews are learning to work around that roadblock too.

"Now we see it immediately as we pull out, we're on top of the hill. We look down, and we take 5th or 6th Street and we're over the train," Fire Cpt. Miles said.

Despite the changes that came along with the new site, fire officials said response times are improving. If you compare data from calls in the month of August when the department was at their old location to response times in September at the new location -- you'll see crews are getting to the scene faster.

"The average response time was 5 minutes and 19 seconds, and it dropped to 5 minutes and 3 seconds," Buelow said.

Crews said they aim to get times to five minutes or less.

Buelow said it's hard to only use three weeks of data to tell what the future will hold for response times, but he said the numbers are trending in the right direction.

Department officials said the new west-side fire station should also help improve response times. The station near Coe College will close and a new building will open at Crestwood Drive Northwest, near Edgewood Road, later this year.

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