DENVER -- A new audit by the Denver City Auditor reveals the Denver Fire Department has a "persistent coverage gap" in Northeast Denver, covering the Montbello, Green Valley Ranch and Northfield neighborhoods and much of the Pena Boulevard corridor leading to Denver International Airport.
"It’s a public safety concern," said Timothy O'Brien, the Denver City Auditor, following an Audit Committee Meeting Thursday morning. "The sooner you can get to the location, the sooner you can address what that the emergency is."
This audit showed that Denver Fire has a higher probability of responding to a call within the national standard in every district when compared to District 5 response times.
For example, Denver Fire is about six times more likely to respond to an EMS or fire-related call within the national standard in District 2 than in District 5.
Todd Bower, the Deputy Fire Chief, said booming growth in the area has created more demand, and Denver Fire needs more stations.
"The fire stations are not where they need to be for the current demand," said Bower.
Station 35 is currently under construction off Pena Boulevard and will help reduce times, but Bower said more stations are needed.
Denver Fire is trying to expedite funding for a Northfield Station in the next two to three years, and Bower said the fire department is working to get a new fire station on the 2017 Bond Issue.
"We just have to be able to get the money to do it. We already have these plans in place. It’s making sure we get the funding for it," said Bower.
The audit also raised concerns about increased numbers of safety inspections, which the fire department attributes, in part, to the growth of the marijuana industry in Denver.
"We have a whole lot of regulations to enforce, and it does take longer to do that," said Bower. "We just don’t have a ramp up of enough people to meet the need."
But the audit also states Denver has lagged behind in hiring for positions that are already in the budget
"Meaning that DFD was employing fewer uniformed personnel than its budget allowed," the audit states. "This number increased from an average of seven vacancies in 2013 to an average of 35 vacancies in 2016."
Denver Fire points to the Fire Academy two years ago that was canceled because of budget concerns.
"It takes time to get people through the academy -- 17 weeks," said Bower, who said the fire department agreed with the auditor's recommendations and is implementing changes.