Mark Andrew pledges to grow Minneapolis Fire Department

Drawing a distinction between himself and rival Betsy Hodges, Minneapolis mayoral candidate Mark Andrew says he’ll grow the city’s Fire Department if elected.

“For every minute of delay that a fire begins to rage, the chances of significant or even fatal injury increases exponentially,” Andrew said in an interview after accepting the endorsement of the Minneapolis Firefighters union.

Andrew hasn’t decided how much more money he’d pump into the department, but he’d like to see its average response time reduced by a minute.

That’s an ambitious goal. Even in 2001, when the Minneapolis Fire Department had about 90 more firefighters, its average response time was only 30 seconds faster than it is today. In 2011, the most recent data available, Minneapolis firefighters showed up on average less than four minutes after a 9-1-1 call.

Hodges, who chairs the Ways & Means/Budget Committee, has said the department continues to perform at a high level, in spite of the cuts it has sustained over the last decade.

An independent review conducted last year concluded that the department “consistently provides excellent service,” but it also found the department fell short of national response time benchmarks.

A recent survey found 98 percent of Minneapolis residents are satisfied with their fire service. Researchers noted, however, that people in every city love their fire departments, and Minneapolis actually had relatively few residents who said they were “very satisfied” with the Fire Department.