The Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services asked both the House of Representatives and the Senate for more money so it could buy two fire trucks.
DFEMS chief Clyde Norita said that Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ proposed budget of $3.9 million for the department is sufficient but he wants $800,000 more to secure two more fire trucks in order to shorten response time.
“Our biggest priorities are the purchase of two new [fire trucks], which are $400,000 apiece,” he said, adding that the $400,000 already includes each truck’s delivery to Saipan.
According to Norita, DFEMS currently has two trucks on Saipan, one of them being inoperable since a forest fire on Capital Hill. “We only have one fire truck that’s working right now,” he said. It is at the Garapan Fire Station.
Norita said the stations’ locations were designed to lessen the response time to between six and nine minutes.
When asked if an additional fire truck would improve DFEMS’ response time, he said, “If there is no engine in the station, it’s still not going to solve the problem.”
Despite this handicap, Norita noted that DFEMS still responds within four to five minutes of a call. The only problem is that ambulances are usually the vehicles used to respond to emergencies and, in the event of a fire, nothing could be done but wait.
“The pumper is critical—every station should have a [fire truck],” said Norita, adding that this was the second consecutive year that DFEMS has been asking for fire trucks.
DFEMS is asking the Legislature for $4.7 million for fiscal year 2018, about $800,000 more than the Torres’ proposed budget due to the requisition of two fire trucks.
Unlike other government agencies, Norita said the department does not lack personnel since the previous class graduated about 38 cadets.
There are six fire stations on Saipan and one each on Rota and Tinian.