In April, the Hoover City Council agreed to enter into an Automatic Aid Agreement with the City of Vestavia Hills for fire protection. Once the details are finalized, residents living near the shared border between the two cities will have the promise of immediate response from the department closest to their homes or businesses.
“‘Automatic Aid’ means the closest resources are sent to the scene of an emergency,” Vestavia Hills Fire Chief Jim St. John said. “I’ve always said the city limits of Vestavia and Hoover look like an unfinished jigsaw puzzle. Because the boundaries the two communities share are so jagged, often another city’s resources are closer to the scene of an emergency.”
Hoover Mayor Gary Ivey said the area affected by the agreement surrounds the northern city limits of Hoover where Vestavia and Hoover touch. It extends from areas of Bluff Park near Alford Avenue to areas of Rocky Ridge Road. Included are businesses on Montgomery Highway and Lorna Road for approximately one mile into Hoover and one mile into Vestavia Hills.
St. John said the agreement would be extremely beneficial to residents on Tyler Road, where houses across the street from one another are in different city limits.
Ivey said it has been the City of Hoover’s goal over the past three years to solidify agreements with all departments that border its city limits to enhance coverage and to allow the closest fire stations to respond to emergencies.
“We have had a Mutual Aid Agreement with Vestavia for years, meaning we assisted each other if we arrived on the scene and needed assistance,” Ivey said. “Now, the agreement makes the response automatic to certain areas saving time.”
With mutual aid agreements, St. John said, if a department finds itself in a situation where it arrives on scene and doesn’t have enough resources, it can call for the other department to assist. Vestavia Hills and Hoover have Mutual Aid Agreements with their neighboring cities and fire protection jurisdictions. Moving to automatic aid improves these agreements because it allows for departments to be dispatched simultaneously.
Ivey said benefits to residents include faster response times, utilization of resources from other departments and more manpower on fire scenes. Vestavia Mayor Alberto Zaragoza added that the agreement has financial benefits because the cities won’t need to build additional fire stations in the affected areas.
“This is big for the leadership in both communities,” St. John said. “ It’s something that requires a lot of detailed work but doesn’t involve sharing of any taxes. It’s done without charge to one another. Most importantly, it allows these departments to move as rapidly as possible, which could make the difference in an emergency.”