RF Fire Department report highlights latest dataFire Chief Scott Nelson and Assistant Fire Chief Mike Moody presented the annual Fire Department report -– with statistics as well an overview of accomplishments and challenges – at the May 8 City Council meeting.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
Fire Chief Scott Nelson and Assistant Fire Chief Mike Moody presented the annual Fire Department report -– with statistics as well an overview of accomplishments and challenges – at the May 8 City Council meeting.
These were among the accomplishments listed in the annual report:
- Appointed 13 new firefighters from 41 total applicants
- Replaced outdated, self-contained breathing apparatuses
- Helped with mock car crash to demonstrate influences of impaired driving
- Secured $7,000 grant to replace thermal-imaging camera equipment
- Obtained and implemented a web-based records-management system for entire department, with a grant paying half the $5,000 cost
- Participated in River Falls Days and the Citizen’s Safety Academy
- Commemorated the 10th anniversary of September 11
- Educated children in local schools about fire safety
- Held an open house
- Selected battalion chiefs, captains, lieutenants and fire-safety officer through an application process.
The department’s report also lists all fire equipment, including its three engine trucks and one reserve, one ladder truck, two water tankers, a brush truck and a wildfire truck, plus a four wheeled-vehicle and two old Fords used for promotional purposes.
Firefighters in River Falls answered 293 calls in the past year, about 100 of which were rural.
The total includes responses to 54 traffic accidents, 11 grass fires, eight vehicle fires and five house fires. Other responses included one each for various things aflame: Farm combine, corn baler, dumpster, microwave, snowmobile, apartment building, garage, construction trailer, workshop, shed, barn, chimney, oven and stove.
Most other responses were to fire or carbon monoxide alarms and calls from other departments for mutual aid, as well as several instances of people calling about smoke or gas smells and a couple of unattended camp fires.
The report outlines weekly training sessions and the Department’s fire-safety education program.
At the Council meeting, the chiefs explained the city’s inspection program for commercial properties, which the report says began evolving in 2011. First the RFFD set three main goals pertaining to inspections:
1) Inspect all 264 commercial properties once per year.
2) Provide consistent inspection standards and procedures for each type of occupancy, for example, commercial or multifamily buildings.
3) Maintain a current and easily accessible records database for all inspections.
Moody, who oversees inspections, said finalizing the new process involved gathering a lot of input from many people, including the business community.
Nelson specified that the law requires two annual inspections, mostly for safety. He said as is allowable, the Department would soon ask the Council to officially change the number of required, annual inspections -- to one.
The chiefs said River Falls has about 572 properties that require inspection; their occupancy types vary from day care to industrial to retail.
Moody said inspectors analyze elements such as the fire-protection or sprinkler system; the presence of fire extinguishers as well as where and how they’re hung and if they work right; the location and configuration of exit points; and other hazardous odds and ends such as excessive extension cords.
Moody and Nelson conceded that prior to implementation of the new database, the department’s processes involved too many inspectors and an antiquated system of keeping records in paper files.
Nelson said the number of inspectors had been reduced from 10 to five.
They now meet twice monthly and each specialize in a certain type of occupancy -- for example schools, nursing homes, commercial properties.
The chief said the new process would include notification of inspections and would encourage compliance through education.
The more-efficient database of records will eliminate redundancy, give real-time information about property key holders and enable firefighters to take a handheld module into the field, if needed.
It also makes it possible for the Department to easily e-mail reports and instantly access many different statistics and records.
Nelson and Moody agreed that the process of implementing the database had required a large investment of time that put the department behind on inspection compliance.
Now that the system is up and running, they say the department would not only catch up but also stay ahead.
Nelson said in the department’s past, inspections had been more reactive than proactive, but the intent is to make them not only entirely proactive but also clearer, smoother and more consistent.