SMITHVILLE — With a wet spring that lead into the summer, Smithville Area Fire Protection District Chief Dave Cline said incidents requiring fire-related district response decreased from the same time the previous year.
In addition to wet weather, decreased call volumes can be attributed to public relations events, inspections and installations of smoke detectors now being categorized as activities instead of incidents, the chief said.
“In previous years, all department activities were reported as incidents,” said Cline. “Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, we no longer count those activities as incidents.”
Overall, between the first six months of 2018 compared to the same time in 2019, call volumes decreased by nearly 80 calls.
Activities counted as incidents in the past include 23 public relations events, predominately smoke alarm installations; 10 education events; and three child safety seat installations.
From Jan. 1 to June 30, the district responded to 592 incidents compared to 670 in the same timeframe in 2018 and 591 in 2017. Although the change in call classification has made an impact in call volumes, 2018 was also dry, resulting in higher call volumes for fire-related incidents than in the same period in 2019, which further skews the difference, said the chief.
Of calls considered incidents so far in 2019, Cline reported three building fires compared to nine in 2018 and five in 2017.
“The hot and dry summer of 2018 led to several fires on decks from improperly disposed of cigarettes and charcoal grills,” Cline said of the difference in fire calls between last year and 2019.
Incidents related to flooding surprised Cline in 2019. For the first time in years, he said, there were no vehicles washed away from drivers trying to travel on flooded roadways. Because of the city’s proximity to multiple rivers, Smithville has a history of flooding.
Cline said he believed the district’s social media efforts warning citizens of poor weather conditions, helped keep drivers off roadways during inclement weather.
While no vehicles have been washed away, Cline added there were two vehicles that wound up in Smithville Lake during the same week. There were no injuries in either incident.
Cline also noted that for the first half of the 2019, firefighters underwent two hours of daily training.
“Smithville firefighters have completed over 1,800 hours of training compared to 1,600 hours this time last year,” he said. “Outside of normal daily training while on shift, in 2019, firefighters have attended more training offered outside the department to learn new skills.”
Upcoming training includes real-time rescue practicing where firefighters can break down walls on a donated property scheduled for demolition. The property will not be burned, Cline said.
“They can create smoke and spray,” he said. “They’ll go full speed.”
The property is an amenity for the district, the chief said, because at station No. 2 on Park Drive, there is an occupied living space for on-duty crew, meaning they are unable to demolish or spray in the facility.
”This is a great opportunity,” Cline added.In addition to having donated property, the district has made investments in vehicles and equipment in 2019. In January, the district purchased a second 2,000-gallon tanker truck and located it in Station No. 3, the unstaffed station at 18135 Collins Road.
“This type of truck is used to haul water in areas of the district which do not have fire hydrants,” Cline said. With this purchase, Station No. 3 is equipped but missing is staff. Those living within the district can expect to see a ballot issue asking for funds to staff the station in the next few years, said the chief.
With a tax passed by district patrons, the district was able to build Station No. 3 facility. On the same ballot, voters were also asked for additional funds to staff Station No. 3, which failed. Cline said as soon as the funds are available to staff the station, it will be ready to go.
“Building station three lowered ISO for citizens in the area,” Cline said. Insurance Services Office-created ratings are used to determine home insurance rates.
“I’m sure it has saved people thousands already,” Cline said. “If we get more staff, it could go down more.”