Nearly one month after the La Crosse Common Council approved a Fire Station Planning Task Force, members of that group held their first meeting.
It has been 50 years since the La Crosse Fire Department has built a new fire station.
"Things have changed. Apparatus have changed," said Jason Gilman, Director of Planning and Development for the City of La Crosse. "Challenges with fighting fires has changed."
"Our last station was built in 1967," said Doug Happel, council member and part of the task force. "The population in La Crosse has moved since 1967."
An outside assessment by Five Bugles earlier this year found that the stations are not keeping up with the changes.
"Our stations are not necessarily in the right places in the city to serve the city as we should," Happel said.
"We want to get a fire engine with properly trained firefighters, properly trained EMS personnel to the scene of an emergency as soon as possible," said Fire Chief Ken Gilliam with the La Crosse Fire Department.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) outlines a four minute response time in emergency situations.
"We're meeting that in a lot of areas in the city," Gilliam said. "As the city's growing and the population density has moved around a bit, certainly there's room for improvement in other parts of the city."
The task force hopes to speed up response times across the community by possibly relocating any of the current four fire stations or finding the best location to build a fifth station.
"Part of our mission is to take a look at what are the challenges and opportunities given the current stations, particularly the public safety aspect of it," Gilman said.
It is an investment in the community now that will last for years to come.
"Now more than ever it's very important that our neighborhoods are attractive places for people to invest in the city so that we can attract people that want to live here and work here," Gilman said.
The group also plans to evaluate the challenges that come with staffing additional fire stations. In 1960, there were a total of 850 emergency calls placed to the La Crosse Fire Department with 93 firefighters on staff. In 2016, calls jumped to 6,000 with only 92 firefighters in the department.
The task force plans to do small group tours of the existing fire stations in the next meeting. Those tours will give members of the group a better understanding of how to address the station needs moving forward.