Flames consume a two-story home at 1321 Easton St. in Alton on Feb. 3, 2014. No one was injured in the fire.
ALTON — Fire Chief Bernie Sebold reported a slight increase in emergency calls for the Alton Fire Department in 2014, along with accomplishments such as a lower insurance rating and new vehicle purchases.
In the fire department’s annual report, Sebold said calls for fires and other emergencies like car wrecks, hazardous materials releases and false alarms saw a slight increase from 2013. However, utilization of the Emergency Medical Dispatching protocol by Alton Police Department dispatchers continued to keep call volume lower than 2011 and before. The protocol suggests dispatchers only alert the fire department to respond to medical calls that meet paramedic or advanced life support criteria. The protocol has reduced apparatus fuel consumption, maintenance costs, and reduced the exposure of fire department personnel to injuries while allowing the fire department to increase its fire prevention and life safety programs, Sebold said.
2014 total call volume: 2,431
2013 total call volume: 2,233
2012 total call volume: 1,959
2011 total call volume: 2,961
Breakdown of calls by type:
Structure fires: 81
Vehicle fires: 20
Grass fires: 22
Open burning: 4
False alarm: 207
Hazardous conditions: 43
Hazardous materials: 59
Public service: 509
Mutual aid given: 22
2,431 calls for service
2014 structure and contents values involved in fire
$4,303,132: Value of buildings and contents where fires occurred
$603,122: Total losses of buildings and contents where fires occurred
$3,700,010: Value of buildings and contents saved by AFD personnel
2013 structure and contents values involved in fire
$13,470,950: Value of buildings and contents where fires occurred
$831,980: Total losses of buildings and contents where fires occurred
$12,643,750: Value of buildings and contents saved by AFD personnel
2014 top three largest fire losses (structure and contents)
Sept. 3: 1309 Washington, $80,000
Sept. 18: 230 McClure, $46,000
Nov. 12: 368 Tara, $60,000
Fire prevention and life safety
AFD continues to follow its mission of serving the community through protection of lives and property by coordinated efforts in code enforcement and fire prevention. Fire suppression activities aren’t the only way to battle fires. By observing, making recommendations, and subsequently controlling and eliminating hazardous conditions, fire inspections by AFD personnel can make major strides in reducing fire incidents.
AFD conducts annual inspections of businesses, schools, daycares and churches in the city limits. Inspections not only serve as an important part of the overall fire prevention effort, they also provide an opportunity for fire personnel to walk through structures, enabling them to become familiar with the layout, contents and construction characteristics of each occupancy. In 2014, 869 fire and life-safety inspections were performed to ensure occupancies are safe and ready to serve their customers. Captains also continue to collect and update pre-fire planning data for all buildings.
The most effective way to reduce fire loss is to prevent fires from starting. The AFD provides the citizens of Alton with up-to-date life-safety messages in fire and injury prevention through direct training programs, as well as interactive demonstrations. In 2014, Alton firefighters provided 55 child car seat installations, instructed 31 CPR/AED classes and oversaw the maintenance of the AEDs in city buildings.
Fire extinguisher training at both the fire station and at local businesses was provided to more than 250 people. This service is provided at no additional charge to business owners and residents. The fire department believes a more prepared community is a safer community.
A new public safety program rolled out at the end of 2014 was Remembering When. This program was developed by the National Fire Protection Association as a fire and fall prevention program that targeted residents 65 and older. The focus of the program is injury prevention so this age demographic can live and function on their own without dealing with preventable injuries. A need for this program was noticed during evaluation of the types of dispatcher calls for the fire department. In 2013 the fire department responded to 307 lift assists and in 2014 the fire department responded to 270 lift assists. Statistics will be closely monitored to see if this program reduces the volume of these types of calls. The program has been presented to about 100 people and will continue to be presented throughout 2015.
Additionally, fire department personnel are part of an ongoing effort to register stakeholders for the Madison County emergency warning system, Code Red. Fire prevention and life safety is a primary function of the fire department; therefore members of the AFD pledge to continue to pursue pro-active ways to increase the safety of the city of Alton’s stakeholders.
The AFD provides several technical rescue services: water emergencies, ice rescue, trench and structural collapse rescue, vehicle and heavy machinery rescue, rope rescue, and confined space rescue. The AFD has 10 members of the department that make up the Technical Rescue Team. These personnel are certified by the Office of the State Fire Marshal in these technical disciplines.
The AFD continues to be active and takes a leading role in the Madison County/MABAS 35 Hazardous Materials Response Team, which includes four AFD personnel. The HMRT consists of 40 members from Madison County Fire Departments who are trained and certified to the Hazmat Technician level or higher. AFD houses the 28-foot support trailer for the hazmat team.
Annually firefighters train in the following areas: mutual aid, fire company operations, apparatus driving, hazardous materials, leadership, EMT/paramedic and technical rescue.
In 2014, Alton’s 45 firefighters completed 9,505 hours of training in these disciplines. This is an increase in total hours of 9,497 hours completed by 48 firefighters in 2013.
In keeping with principles of the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS), the fire department participated in a six-day boat firefighting operations class with the city of St. Louis and hosted a five-day automobile extrication class at the public works facility. The extrication class had attendees from four area departments and was made possible by working with public works to provide decommissioned city vehicles.
The increased hours of training directly contributed to attaining the lower Insurance Service Office rating of a 2.
Fire Prevention Week open house
The fire department’s 2014 Open House for Fire Prevention Week was a continued success. The event was attended by more than 280 people. Families were able to participate in the fire safety trailer, view the fire apparatus, learn proper operation of a fire extinguisher and get information on the Madison County Community Emergency Response Team and the American Red Cross. The main attraction of the day was the live fire demonstration that focused on the safety message of the safe use of space heaters. Lastly, attendees were able to enjoy a bowl of chili with Alton firefighters.
2014 had several changes to the department’s fleet of apparatus. Due to the age and condition of the fire trucks, upgrading the fleet was necessary. Unfortunately, due to tough economic times, purchasing new apparatus was not an option. With the support of the Mayor Brant Walker and the City Council, the fire department sold a 2003 Sutphen 70-foot ladder truck and a 1994 Freightliner/E-One pumper. The ladder truck did not meet the needs of the city of Alton because of its short reach and design. The proceeds of these truck sales were used to purchase a 1997 Spartan/Smeal pumper, 2002 Spartan/Saulsbury pumper, 2000 Spartan/General (due to be delivered in April 2015) and two 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe Command Vehicles. All used pumpers were inspected prior to purchase and the City Garage was consulted as to any maintenance concerns. The City Garage’s input is integral to any apparatus purchase decision because they are the primary mechanics on the vehicles. After all apparatus purchases were made there was a surplus of $70,000 that was applied to the city’s general fund.
2002 Spartan/Saulsbury pumper purchased for $51,000
2000 Spartan/General pumper purchase for $89,900. Awaiting delivery from Florida
1997 Spartan/Smeal pumper purchased for $37,500
2013 Chevrolet Tahoe deputy fire chief command vehicle purchased for $30,000
2013 Chevrolet Tahoe fire chief command vehicle purchased for $30,000
In 2014 the Alton Fire Department achieved an ISO rating of 2. This was a historical moment for the city of Alton because this low rating has never been achieved before. Fire departments are rated nationally on a scale of 1-10 in their ability to provide fire protection to their community. One is the best and 10 is the worst rating. In March 2012 the Fire Department was notified that it would decline from a 3 to a 4 rating; this higher rating meant some homeowners saw increases in their property insurance premiums of $86 to $120 annually. The fire department hopes this low rating of a 2 will provide a mechanism for savings when the rating is published to insurance companies on April 1. This low rating was made possible through a redesigned training program, mutual aid agreement with East Alton Fire Department and cooperative efforts from the Alton Police Department dispatchers and Illinois American Water Co.
The Office of the State Fire Marshal awarded the Firefighter Excellence Award to the AFD second shift for their heroic actions at a structure fire on Western Avenue. This was the second year in a row members of the Alton Fire Department have been honored.