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Tontitown Fire Department moves to 24/7 operation after budget increase

Tontitown only had two full-time firefighters who served alongside volunteers, but on Jan. 1, the department added four more.

TONTITOWN, Ark. — The Tontitown Fire Department rang in the New Year by expanding its operations, which it says will help the department better serve its community.

"It is now staffed 24 hours a day, 365," said Tontitown Fire Captain John Buchan. He says this will improve response times.

"It's going to save lives and protect properties," said Buchan.

The Tontitown City Council approved the funding to make it happen.

"We requested an additional $200,000 for salaries and then for equipment and now we're able to provide this service," Buchan said. "Ultimately, you can never put a price on a life. It was just time that we did something to get to the citizens faster."

With the department now 24/7, at least 2 people will always be on shift. Buchan says this will cut out the time required to drive to the station before responding to a call. Instead, firefighters will be able to leave the station to go straight to the scene.

"On a medical call, we'll have 4 people out the door in 90 seconds," Buchan said. "On fire, we'll have two people out the door in 90 seconds."

However, he adds that this all comes with a few growing pains.

"It's literally falling apart," Buchan said while giving 5NEWS a tour of the fire station.

In November of 2022, Tontitown broke ground on a new fire station scheduled to be open this November.

"We've held on as long as we could," Buchan said.

"The original fire station was built when the fire department started in 1978," said Buchan.

With the population increase of Northwest Arkansas and Tontitown, Buchan says it was time for a new station.

"We just don't have the facilities for the full-time staff," Buchan said speaking about its current station.

"We serve 6,000 people in the city, but we also impact around 20,000 more people outside the city," Buchan said.

The department provides mutual aid to cities across Benton county.

"It's a breath of reassurance to just know when they call 911, fully trained, qualified firefighters are going to arrive at their doors within minutes," said Buchan.

The new station will be nearly 12,000 square feet, which is nearly 4 times as big as the current facility.

The $5.3 million fire station is expected to be open by fall 2023. It will feature:

- Three drive-through bays

- Five bedrooms with bathrooms for paid staff

- One bunk room with four beds for volunteers 

- Two half baths with baby changing stations

- Three administrative offices

- A report room, large classroom, living room, large kitchen, large dining room, conference room, full gym, shop, air room, gear room, deacon room, and laundry area.

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