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Forum editorial: West Fargo fire times worrisome

In attempting to explain away manipulation of West Fargo Volunteer Fire Department response time reports, fire and city officials said something like, no one has complained. If that’s the best they can do, the city of West Fargo has a problem.

Of course, no one has complained. Until The Forum’s investigative report about the volunteer force, West Fargo residents had no idea how slow response times are; and they certainly could not know that response time logs do not accurately reflect the time it takes to get to a fire after the alarm has sounded. How could they know? They did not know what to complain about.

More disturbing, however, is that it appears city commissioners and officials in City Hall did not know that response times were not up to par, or that the fire log entries apparently were adjusted to make response times look better.

This is serious business for a growing city that contracts with an independent volunteer fire department for more than half a million dollars a year. The response time question raises more questions:

  • How are fire insurance rates affected by slower-than-average response times?
  • What does it mean for the apartment and individual home sales market if potential buyers begin to wonder if fire safety is not what it should be?
  • In one of the fastest-growing cities in the state, is it acceptable for elected city commissioners to resist going to a full-time professional fire department?

    It’s not enough for city officials to kiss off the matter by saying “no one has complained.” Now that West Fargo residents know they live in a city where the risk of losing life and property to a fire is greater than in other nearby cities, they have plenty about which to complain.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper's Editorial Board.