Fire chief: Part of city is underserved and problem could worsen with Lake Conestee annexation

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Lake Conestee Nature Park trail entrance. Photo by Will Crooks.

Greenville Fire Chief Steve Kovalcik has sounded an alarm — the part of the city south of Interstate 85 is underserved when it comes to fire protection and that could get worse with the proposed annexation of Lake Conestee Nature Park.

Kovalcik told members of the Greenville City Council that response-time models show it would take the closest fire truck nine and a half minutes to get to Lake Conestee Nature Park, five minutes and 30 seconds longer that the standard. When the Lake Conestee Nature Park annexation was proposed, Lake Conestee Foundation executive director Dave Hargett had said the Belmont Fire Department would continue to cover the park.

The area south of Interstate 85 was identified as underserved as early as 2012, and the Insurance Services Office voiced concern over the lack of connectivity to areas south of the interstate from the city’s fire stations. Kovalcik said there are only three ways the city’s fire trucks can access the areas southwest of Laurens Road — Laurens Road, Ridge Road, and Mauldin Road.

“I-85 acts as a barrier,” he said.

Kovalcik said the fire department is concerned about the potential growth the annexation will bring.

As land in downtown and the adjacent neighborhoods becomes more scarce and expensive, the area near Mauldin Road and Fairforest Way has attracted more development, from commercial facilities to schools, and multifamily and single-family residential.

That growth shows in a steep increase in calls for service for the fire department.

Since 2010, the fire department has responded to 1,077 calls south of Interstate 85 — 561 fire calls and another 516 medical incidents. From 2014 to 2018, calls for service increased by 79 percent, Kovalcik said.

The area has several schools: J.L. Mann High, Christ Church Episcopal School, St. Joseph’s Catholic School, and Lead Academy Charter School. It is also home to the Renewable Water Resources headquarters, Duke Energy’s operations center, the U.S. Postal Service, UPS, FedEx, and the city’s public works facility.

Kolvacik said if a new station is not built, it could have a negative impact on fire insurance rates for residents and businesses in the area.

The fire department has identified three potential sites for a new fire station that would serve that area.

The first is the site of the fire department’s training facility. That location would provide a four-minute travel time to most of the currently underserved area while also providing some additional coverage in the Pleasantburg and Verdae areas.

The second site, which is the department’s preferred location, is at the city’s public works facility on Fairforest Way. There is available land at the facility and it would provide a four-minute travel time to most of the currently underserved area, Kovalcik said.

The final location is the intersection of Cavalier Drive and Fairforest Way. This location would provide the most coverage for the currently underserved area and additional coverage for Millennium Boulevard and the CU-ICAR campus.

No money has been identified for the new station. The city just opened a new fire station on Verdae Boulevard to address the need in the Woodruff Road area.

“Growth is good, but not if you’re not keeping up,” Kovalcik told the council.

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