The Storm Lake Fire Department has had a pretty hot year, with both an increase in calls and a five-year high in structural fires to fight, according to a newly-released annual study of the department.
During 2001, the mainly-volunteer force saw 189 call-outs, up from 182 the previous year. Firefighters battled 30 structural fires, easily the highest number since the current records system began. A normal year sees slightly over 20 major fires, with the previous high being 25 in 1997, and the recent low, 17 in 1998.
In addition, the fire department recorded the following statistics for 2001:
* 4 gas odor/leak calls
* 7 hazardous materials spills
* 13 vehicle fires
* 41 smoke scares or general assistance calls
* 5 rescue calls
* 69 false alarm calls, down from 83 in 2000.
* 2 downed power lines/transformer calls
* 5 grass/trash fires, down sharply from previous years before the city burning ban
* 2 carbon monoxide complaints
* 12 public safety stand-by posts
* There were no bomb scares or explosion calls in 2001.
The department is among the most experienced in northwest Iowa. In March, 15-year veteran Mike Jones was named as the new chief. The two assistant chiefs total 40 years on the department, the three captains total 54 years, and the three lieutenants total 56 years.
Of the 20 volunteers, eight are in line to mark 10 years or more on the department during 2002.
Despite state budget cuts, the department was able to access training funds through the Fire Marshall's office. About 92 hours of in-house training was provided in several specialty areas, with ongoing efforts to certify more of the volunteer firefighters. "In addition, we were also involved in some training opportunities based on the response to domestic terrorism," Jones said. Teleconferencing helped the department prepare for such emergencies, and some personal protective gear was also purchased for such emergencies.
Fire department officers logged an average of 102 hours of training in 2001, with a total of 3,060 hours spent in training by the department overall.
Much of the department's equipment was updated in 2001, including radio receivers in the outdoor weather warning systems and a new "Jaws of Life" victim extrication unit to replace a set that was over 20 years old.
The volunteers on the department chose to purchase chain saw equipment for the department with funds from their annual drive.
A house was provided for a training burn last June, and a mock disaster drill along with police, sheriff and hospital authorities further provided hands-on training opportunities.
Two new members have joined the department under a new set of hiring protocol, Josh Frevold as a full-time firefighter and volunteer Christine Stegora, the department's first female firefighter.
Fire safety inspections were completed with Buena Vista University and Iowa Central Community College.
The department currently boasts seven response vehicles, the newest being the 1999 aerial platform pumper and a 1994 rescue truck. The other fire engines date to 1990, 1986, 1981 and 1969.
The department's community services for the year included 51 residential inspections and 29 follow-ups, 34 liquor license inspections, 23 school and day care safety inspections, and 71 tours/fire safety presentations/drills and public appearances.