HUNTERTOWN, Ind. (WANE) — For Huntertown Fire Chief Robert Boren, the story is in the numbers.

He’s watching as 2,000 new homes are coming into his 70-square mile territory in Perry and Eel River townships, and that’s not the end of projected residential and commercial development.

The most telling numbers of all are the runs. Last year, Boren’s department made more than 3,000 runs. Sixteen years ago when he came on as a career fighter there were 500 a year, a sixth of what they’re seeing now. That’s a 600% jump in runs, and the stress continues.

Currently the department has a new fire station under construction at Tonkel and Hursh roads. Boren expects that station to be completed next spring, splitting coverage evenly east and west. Cost of the new station is between $3.5 to $4 million, he said.

The Huntertown Fire Department has 13 career firefighters who are also trained EMTS, but the department services are in demand and staffing may have to increase, Chief Robert Boren says.

The department with 13 full-time firefighters, about 40 volunteers, one ladder truck, two engines and one in reserve, three ambulances, one grass rig and a 3,000 gallon tanker is in no danger of shrinking.

Boren doesn’t rule out the need for a third fire station in the future.

“We’ve seen a huge uptick in call volume and we know we need to start spreading out our services across the coverage area to meet the demands out there,” Boren said. “We have standards that we want to meet for our time to make it to scenes, so some of that importance is to try to make it underneath a certain amount of time. We look at nine minutes as a little too long of a response time so we want to improve that to the best of our abilities.”

The Fort Wayne Fire Department, for instance, has an average response time of less than five minutes, Fort Wayne Fire’s Deputy Chief Adam O’Connor said.

“Last year, we saw an increase in runs by 49%,” Boren said. “We worry about burnout on our paramedics.”

All 13 career Huntertown firefighters are trained EMTS and most of them are trained in advanced life-saving.

There’s been an uptick in EMS calls that make up 78% of the calls while fire response calls are down at 22%, Boren said. Fire calls include more than structure fires.

“Fire side goes out on fire alarms. There’s been a huge rise in that. It could be a false alarms,” Boren said. Home detection alarms are getting much better. The department also responds to natural gas leaks and unidentified odors inside the home.

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Sometimes the chief says he hops on the third ambulance, if needed.

“Two of them are staffed 24/7 and the third one is staffed by volunteers,” he explained. “It would be nice to have a third fully staffed ambulance.”

To help ease the situation and improve run times, Huntertown Fire Department opened up a temporary EMT station in August 2020 at Story Point senior living community on Union Chapel Road, not far from Parkview Regional Medical Center.

Boren says once the new station is completed on Tonkel Road, that one will be closed.

“Our most urgent need right now is more manpower. We have staffing for 13 career firefighters, and (we have) approximately 40 volunteers. The volunteers try their hardest but volunteerism is down across the nation and we still need to get some more 24-hour coverage in the fire stations as possible. So with that, we’re going to have to add more manpower,” Boren said.

With a potentially bigger department, that will mean a bigger budget. Years ago, Boren remembers the fire departmen’ts budget being between $500,000 and $800,000. Now it runs between $1.3-$1.4 million annually.

“We know there’s going to have to be adjustments probably somewhere down the line. That means we try to tighten up certain areas, but we also have to spend money where money is needed. So as we look towards the future, we’ll probably need more manpower or potentially more equipment or maybe even a third station down the line. We know we’re going to have to look into what those numbers mean,” Boren said.