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Commentary: Let's keep Costa Mesa Fire Station 6 open

This Tuesday, Costa Mesa Fire Chief Dan Stefano will give the City Council an update on the Fire Department and the status of the plans to restructure the department that was agreed upon 2 1/2 years ago with a unanimous vote of the city council.

Within those restructure plans is one major initiative that is still being studied: the closure of Station 6 near the northeast edge town, along the Santa Ana border.

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But times have changed, and after a recent briefing with Chief Stefano, we believe we have enough information now to take closing Fire Station 6 off the table.

We reach that conclusion based on several factors, including the acknowledgment that we live in an era of increased demand for emergency services that we simply can't ignore.

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So here's a little background. In mid-2013, as the city was still reeling from a brutal economic recession, interim Fire Chief Tom Arnold presented the City Council with an extensive analysis that kept the fire department in house and saved the city $1.8 million.

That analysis recommended reducing the number of fire personnel and redeploying them more efficiently to better respond to the reality that emergency medical services are more than 70% of the calls for service.

The plan included additional improvements, such as modifying traffic signals to give emergency vehicles longer green light times, upgrading the existing dispatch system and closing down Fire Station 6.

It made perfect sense.

The analysis further noted that Fire Station 6 on Sakioka Drive was the least efficient of all the city's stations and had by far the fewest number of calls for service. Indeed, Station 2 on Baker Street could easily fill in the gaps, and the proximity of Station 6 being less than a quarter mile from the Santa Ana border meant the Orange County Fire Authority's Station 76 on MacArthur Boulevard was a suitable backup if needed.

On a unanimous 5-0 vote, the council agreed to the plan.

While we believe our decision was a good one at the time, we acknowledge times have changed.

We are willing to work with Chief Stefano and give him the leverage to redeploy his fire department personnel in different ways that still maintains the efficiencies and staffing numbers we all agreed to but also keeps Fire Station 6 open at the same time.

We are confident that taking this new course will make us a better city from both a financial and public safety standpoint for years to come.

STEVE MENSINGER is the mayor of Costa Mesa. JIM RIGHEIMER is the mayor pro tem.

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