Jones reported city firemen made 1,066 runs in 2009, a decrease of 37 from 2009 even though mutual aid for other departments rose by six. Fire damage totaled $354,950 on property valued at $4.9 million, compared to damage of $480,290 on property valued at $5.5 million.
Fewer structure fires
The big difference was in the number of structure fires. Fires in 2009 included 13 residential and two commercial fires, a total drop of 11 from 2008 when there were three industrial fires. Major damage events like the A-1 Rental fire in January 2008 and the McDonald's fire in 2010, nearly two years apart to the day, were avoided in 2009.
More favorable weather led to a decrease in electrical fires, thanks to less wind and ice storms. Tornado watches dropped to three from 14 in 2008. Even grass fires declined by two for a total of six on the year, reflecting a break from the extremely dry conditions seen in some summers.
Two floods on Broadway represented half the number from 2008. Having had significant experience over the past two years in dealing with floods, Jones said he has made one change.
"I have instructed the guys when they know it's going to flood to evacuate the [Marshall] trailer park the first time," Jones said, "if they want to go or not. My guys are not coming back in to get you. We probably should have done that a long time ago."
During the Sept. 19, 2009, flood, Jones said his men had further difficulty with a resident trying to sneak back into the Marshall Trailer Park while flooding was underway. Guarding the park further drained manpower that could have been used elsewhere, Jones said.
The number of vehicular accidents held steady at 65, one less than the year before. Responses to medical calls totaled 599, a 3 percent increase. Jones expected the number of First Responder runs for medical situations would continue to increase with the growing number of people coming to town. Calls to set up landing zones for helicopters rose 19 percent in 2009.
Jones commended the Police Department for providing very specific directions to vehicular accidents on Highway 60. With the divided highway and separated bridge spans over Waldensian Road, dispatchers have avoided delays by directing firemen to the proper side without doubling back.
Over time, Jones said, the attitude of firemen has changed about medical calls. Now the calls are viewed just as public relations opportunities in addition to rendering a service.
The number of investigations requested dropped by 16 percent in 2009, but Jones fully expects the number to stay steady. A request to check out the smell of smoke or gas has to be answered, regardless of how minor the circumstances.
Controlled burns, for example, are allowed during specific hours, which Jones will tell people who call. However, if a neighbor complains about the smoke, the firemen will put the fire out.
Each year has its share of oddities in the report. Jones noted the number of dumpster fires doubled last year. There were individual incidents of a porta-potty being set on fire and someone igniting property set up for a yard sale.
The total number of assists made to help rural departments rose by six to 118 last year. City firefighters now automatically respond to any structure fire within five miles of the city, including calls for the Pierce City departments, the Purdy Fire District and the Freistatt department.
Jones told his men not to hesitate calling other departments for help either. The assistance of out-of-town firemen was a big help in the McDonald's fire in January.
Jones expects to take time in the coming weeks to gather his men and have an extended discussion about the fire that destroyed the McDonald's restaurant on Jan. 8. He said in looking for lessons from the experience, the consensus has been that high roofs, particularly in restaurant chain buildings, can hide fires, creating dangerous conditions for fighting them.
Another lesson came from the difficulties created by ice coating the scene and the equipment. Jones is looking forward to hearing what his men have to say about maneuvering under such conditions.
Many individual efforts made a big difference that day. Jones commended the work of the cadets in helping to move hose all afternoon. People like Jarrod Jarvis and Animal Control Officer Alicia Graves, running to the store to buy gloves and stocking caps for the cadets helped keep the entire operation going.