SPECIAL REPORT: the state of Odessa Fire Rescue

ODESSA -- Odessa Fire Rescue is feeling the effects of the boom.

It was a busy day at the Odessa Fire Rescue Station on West Street Thursday.

OFR Fire Chief, John Alvarez, has been with the department 26 years. And he said, it’s been an even busier year.

“Last year we made 18, 260 calls for the year. And that’s unprecedented, because we’ve never reached those high numbers before. This year, we did an audit on our one report, and it showed that we’re already 13, 000 calls ahead of last year at this time. So it looks like we might be on track to break 20, 000 calls this coming year,” Alvarez said.

The city of Odessa has a population of around 117, 000 people. That number is a little less than half the population of Lubbock, according to the latest United States census.

“The city of Lubbock, which has 19 fire stations. We made more runs than they did last year and we have eight fire stations,” Alvarez said.

The booming oil industry is bringing in more people. And, it even lured several firefighters away. But despite it all, the National Fire Protection Association Requirements remain the same.

“If a structure fire comes in right now, we have to be at that residence within five minutes and 20 seconds,” Alvarez said.

And within eight minutes, they need a crew of 16 people at the scene.
“I can tell you, there’s been parts of the city where we’ve not met that. We were over that allotted time,” Alvarez said.

Chief Alvarez said the station’s resources were responding to other calls across town.

“Eighty to 85 percent of what we do as a fire department is EMS. And we’re constantly running out of ambulances. And we can’t have that. When somebody calls 911 they expect you to show up with an ambulance and paramedics,” Alvarez said.

The chief said Odessa needs more fire stations.

“We could use a fire station in the middle of town. We’ve seen a lot of growth out east of town, out north of town,” Alvarez said.

At Fire Station Number 6, firefighters have to back the fire truck in to the station. Then Fire Stations Number 2, and 3, are outdated. And on top of that, OFR needs three more stations, to meet the city’s growth.

“Overall, in our immediate needs, you know, we’re coming up on $33 million,” Alvarez said.

The chief is creating a capital improvement plan to submit to city council that will call for building and relocating fire stations, purchasing more ambulances, and adding 48 firefighters.

“Our biggest thing is, we’re making them do so much with less right now,” Alvarez said.

And the firefighters will have to continue to do that, for at least a little while longer.

“Even if we were given the green light today, right now, to build these fire stations, it would probably take us a year and a half, two years, to finally see that station built,” Alvarez said.