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Fireman had record year in '11

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monett city firefighters saw another year of record activity in 2011. Fire Chief Tom Jones welcomed the change after 2010 started with the McDonald's fire.

City firefighters made 1,144 runs in 2011, up 13 percent from 2010. The total topped the old record of 1,072 in 2007.

"I anticipate calls will get higher," Jones said. "Monett is getting bigger. We make a lot of runs to the big stores out on Highway 60 for medical calls."

Last year was eventful for the department when local firemen had the opportunity to help Joplin in wake of the May 22, 2011, tornado. Monett firemen left one of their trucks in place and switched out teams daily for two weeks.

Jones said his men used their rescue equipment extensively, wearing out a pair of cutters used to slice through rebar at collapsed buildings. Monett's air bag was also used to move heavy tonnage walls that had collapsed at the Home Depot and helped remove bodies.

Damage in the city from fires added up to $1,535,100 in 2011. The total was one-third of the 2010 amount. In the past 10 years, only the $1 million total in 2005 and the $901,500 loss in 2007 were less. The fire loss ratio compared to the property involved was 8.7 percent, about average for the 10-year period.

Firemen responded to 10 residential and two industrial structure fires in 2011, up two from 2010. Jones said six of the residential fires were chimney fires.

"Many people don't clean their chimneys often enough, or they burn too much green wood in them and that builds up the creosote," Jones said. "They often use the fireplace when it's cold, then use it later with a fire that's not so hot. That builds up creosote too."

Medical calls rise

The largest number of calls received by the fire department were for ambulance runs, which hit 645 in 2011, up 17 percent from 2010. Providing assistance for senior citizens needing help getting up rose from 15 to 36 in 2011.

Firemen assisted with 102 investigations, one more than the previous year. Jones said police often ask to utilize the services of the department's infra-red heat-seeking camera that helps detect persons hiding. Lights from fire trucks have proven helpful in a number of situations as well.

Extremely dry conditions prompted firemen to investigate 32 controlled burns in 2011. Jones said even though the fires remained under control, firemen asked people to douse the fires as a safety precaution.

One welcome change was a reduction in automatic alarms from 41 to 18. Jones said many businesses are taking greater caution in managing their alarms or sprinkler systems.

Tornado watches declined from nine to four. While Jones welcomed the drop, he noted all four came from warnings from sighted storms.

Crash responses stay high

Calls to vehicle accidents in the city remained steady at 57, down one from 2010. Jones said during the past year the department purchased a set of rescue jacks that help stabilize a vehicle that has flipped on its top.

A significant number of crash responses were part of the department's assistance to nearby departments. Monett firefighters automatically respond to structure fires with the Monett Rural, Pierce City, Pierce City Rural and Freistatt departments and to nearby crashes.

City firemen helped Monett Rural 78 times in 2011, up a third from 2010. Wrecks made up 45 of those calls, up from 28 the previous year. Half of the 31 calls to help Pierce City Rural were in response to wrecks. Two-thirds of the 15 calls to help the Purdy Fire District were to help with crashes. Five of the 13 responses with the Freistatt Fire Department were for crashes.

Additional assists were made for the Aurora, Aurora Rural, Mt. Vernon and Jenkins fire departments.

Other types of runs made by city firemen with a comparison to 2010 in parentheses were as follows: bomb threat, 1 (same in 2010); grass fires, 4 (+3); helicopter landing zones, 90 (+10); washdowns, (same); water rescue, 1 (same); and vehicle fires, 3 (-3).

Looking ahead

Approaching a new fiscal year, Jones is hoping funds will be available for a new pumper truck. The 1965 and 1978 pumpers have been retired to power washing service at the waste treatment plant. The oldest front-line pumper is from 1989 and Jones would like to move it to secondary service.

"We will need hose this year," Jones said. "I'd like to set up a three-to-five-year plan replacing equipment, so we're not out of ton of money all at once. You've got to start somewhere.

"People tell us they don't believe our trucks are as old as they are," Jones said. "We take care of them, and they take care of you. We know we have to make them last."

In the coming year, Jones hopes to have a confined space class. Such training is expensive, and Jones would like to see funding from local industries to cover the cost.

Arrangements have been made to train a Type Four Team to deal with structural collapses. The 16-hour course is offered through the University of Missouri Fire Rescue Training Institute. Space will be available in the class for firemen from other departments to fill the required number of participants.

Monthly training sessions are planned for the year. The March 19 class will focus on Denver drill and search and rescue techniques. The April 16 class will concentrate on large area search tactics. On May 21, firemen will train on a live trailer burn, and on June 18, department members will participate in an emergency vehicle driver course.

Jones would like to have another firefighter 1 and 2 class in the spring.

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