Avondale Fire and Medical Department

A $3 million grant will help Avondale Fire and Medical Department expand and staff a ladder truck, used on commercial fires and rescues such as one involving a trapped motorist during a monsoon flood. 

Avondale is growing up—literally.

While the city can be said to be maturing as its population grows, Avondale also is experiencing vertical growth, with hotels and multilevel, sprawling warehouses and industrial spaces.

With potential fires and rescues at big buildings in mind, the Avondale Fire and Medical Department purchased a ladder truck in 2007. And, with the continued growth of the city in mind, plans are in place for another fire station.

Thanks to a $3 million grant, Fire Chief Jeff Case will have firefighters to staff both the ladder truck and new station.

Most fire departments go fishing for grants a few times a year. 

Avondale landed a tuna.

“This is a big one,” said Case.

Indeed, the grant means a swift 20% increase to his current roster of 65 firefighters.

The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security will cover 14 new firefighters.

The city was awarded the grant on Sept. 11—and Case didn’t hesitate to put up the “we’re hiring” signs.

“We’re anticipating with the SAFER grant the ability to fully staff a ladder truck,” Case said.

(The ladder truck came in handy last September for a water rescue during a monsoon flood.)

The 14 new firefighters will help staff the city’s planned fifth fire station, to be built on city-owned land at 127th Avenue and Van Buren Street. City council will consider design plans in the coming weeks, with plans for groundbreaking early next year—or before, if Case has his way. “I’m an optimist,” he said. “The goal is to get it ready as soon as possible.”

Case celebrated his first year as Avondale’s fire chief Sept. 2. The SAFER grant was a great anniversary present.

“We had support from various Congress people and senators who put their recommendations in our application,” Case said.

“It’s a challenging, very detailed application process—our deputy chief, Aaron Glass, managed that.

“There was a lot of data included with regards to the growth of Avondale and projected growth, both residential and commercial.”

The days of Avondale being covered in farms, modest houses and neighborhood shops are long gone. 

“We have several large commercial warehouses and other commercial businesses constructed or under construction,” Case said. 

For incidents involving those businesses, “a ladder truck plays a critical role,” he said.

Case is pushing to hire for the grant-funded positions as soon as possible. Interviews are being lined up with qualified candidates—who have already passed tough fitness tests.

Even after they are hired, candidates are not in the clear: They must pass four months of what Case called “brutal training” at the fire academy.

With a ladder truck, firefighters and a new station on the way, things are falling into place the way Case envisioned—and many who have been in Avondale much longer.

 “This is something the city has been very proactive about in anticipating the growth of the city. Even though we’ve had COVID, we’ve seen continuing growth in residential and even commercial. We are definitely growing at a fast pace,” Case said.