The St. Paul City Council on Wednesday terminated a mutual-aid agreement between the city's Fire Department and eight suburban Ramsey County departments, voting unanimously to end the pact with little discussion, despite concerns raised by leaders in the other cities.
The mutual-aid agreement called for the closest fire crews to respond to life-threatening emergencies involving either cardiac arrest or a structural fire, regardless of city limits.
But St. Paul fire officials said the closest-unit agreement created an undue burden on their department, something that suburban leaders hotly contested.
"The fire chief had some concerns whether or not it was an equitable agreement," said City Council President Amy Brendmoen after the council meeting. "Our number one concern is the safety of our community members."
She added that she's hopeful St. Paul and the suburbs can negotiate a new agreement.
St. Paul Fire Chief Butch Inks wrote to the suburban departments in late January to announce plans to leave the agreement in April. The agreement included fire departments in St. Paul, Maplewood, Roseville, Falcon Heights, Little Canada, New Brighton, North St. Paul, White Bear Lake and the Lake Johanna department that serves Arden Hills, North Oaks and Shoreview.
Since the agreement took effect in fall 2016, firefighters in Ramsey County have crossed into different cities a little more than 100 times. The agreement was recognized with an award from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.
While other mutual-aid agreements will remain in place in the event of a catastrophe or large fire, a St. Paul Fire Department spokesman said that individual jurisdictions "should respond to emergencies in their communities and remain responsible for being the first-arriving units."
Suburban leaders have challenged the claim of St. Paul officials that the suburbs benefited more than they did from the agreement.
Shannon Prather • 651-925-5037