See more of the story

Maplewood will close one of its three fire stations and rebuild an outdated one to improve efficiency and service to residents, city leaders said.

Closing the city’s central station and rebuilding the cramped northern station at County Road C and Hazelwood Street is all part of the city’s plan to upgrade fire and EMS facilities. The city’s southern station, at 600 N. McKnight Road, will remain open under the plan.

The Maplewood Fire Department employs 27 full-time firefighters who are all cross-trained as either paramedics or EMTs. The fire department also provides the city’s ambulance service.

“It is an excellent plan for our community,” said Maplewood Mayor Marylee Abrams. “We have been studying this for the last several years to make sure we are in a good position to provide medical service and fire service for our community now and in the future.”

So far the community has been largely supportive of the plan, she said.

The new 30,000-square-foot northern fire station, expected to cost upward of $10.7 million, will replace a station that is “grossly inadequate,” Abrams said. The new station will have six drive-through bays for fire apparatus and ambulances, administrative offices and improved public spaces.

It also will have better facilities to decontaminate after fires and emergency calls. That’s critical because firefighters face 9% higher cancer diagnoses and 14% higher cancer-related deaths than the general population, according to a study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

City leaders will start interviewing architectural firms this spring, said Michael Mondor, Maplewood’s EMT chief. They hope to complete construction of the new north station by the end of 2021.

“This isn’t something we dreamt up last night,” Mondor said. “We’ve spent five years studying these issues, trying to create a sustainable and reliable fire department.”

City leaders started examining the department’s deployment and staffing in 2016 as demands were increasing, Mondor said. They decided to move from a mixed staff of part- and full-timers to an all-full-time staff in 2018.

And now they’re making changes in facilities after an outside analysis found that the central station, at Clarence Street near Frost Avenue, and north station were covering much of the same area.

“Our north station and central station have such an overlap in coverage area,” Mondor said. “By operating two stations, we are gaining less than 1 percent of efficiency in response.”

Maplewood Fire and EMS responded to about 6,800 emergency calls last year, 85% of them medical in nature. The typical response time is about 8.3 minutes, Mondor said.