Metro, suburban fire departments agree to make response changes

Fire departments work together to get to fires faster

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Fire chiefs from Metro Louisville and the Suburban district were in the hot seat Wednesday in front of Metro Council.

A public safety committee questioned the two on why the closest firefighters weren’t automatically sent to a fire that destroyed three St. Matthews businesses last month.

Louisville fire sent trucks from miles away, instead of requesting help from a closer St. Mathews station blocks away.

Louisville Chief Gregory Frederick said he didn't know if St. Matthews' trucks were away on calls or training, but agreed to work toward finding an automatic response plan for fires that border jurisdictions in Jefferson County.

A chain link fence now stands on Breckinridge Lane, where the fire raged in June.

Behind it are the still charred remains of a strip mall now deserted.

Frederick addressed social media controversy that rose from those ashes, asking why the department didn’t ask for help.

"A lot of people were weighing in on the issue that really had no bearing on what went on," Frederick said. "Our response times were good."

Frederick said that criticism drove him to respond on Facebook, defending his firefighter from what he said were people out of the state questioning his calls.

Some council members said that’s not how they took his post, instead stating Frederick was mischaracterizing comments criticizing Suburban districts.

"I'm assuming your personal opinion is that the Suburban fire officials, that are represented here in their leadership, are quote 'armchair quarterbacks and wannabees playing junior varsity'," Council member Anthony Piagentini, R- District 19, said.

Regardless of the social media debate, fire chiefs from Louisville Metro and the Suburban district agreed to work together to figure out a solution.

The two agreed to work toward sending firefighters to the fires closest to them, even if they’re not in their jurisdiction, but noted it wont happen overnight.

"There are different key systems in different departments," Frederick said.

Frederick laid out several dozen challenges as bullet points on slides his department would face integrating automatic responses with the Suburban district.

Suburban fire representatives said they've already worked through most of the issues he raised.

Adam Jones, the Buechel Fire Chief representing the Suburban district said people might not be getting the closest fire unit right now, but that may soon be changing.

"At the end of the day, you're getting the closest ambulance no matter what," Jones said. "We do have a little divide on the fire side, but I think today is the start of something that's going to be good moving forward."

Fire leaders also raised questions about automatic responses breaking union agreements, and the services different districts receive dependent on the tax rate people pay.

Metro Council members said they want to create a work group to move the issue forward.

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