Archive for Thursday, February 5, 2004

Fire calls ‘challenging’ in ‘03

Year records fatality; seniors spur medical calls

February 5, 2004

The number of fire calls in Eudora last year may not have been unusual, but the nature of the calls provided the Eudora Fire Department with a challenge, said Fire Chief Spencer McCabe. Of the 75 fire incidents Eudora firefighters responded to last year, the Feb. 6 fire on Ash Street stands out. That call resulted in a fatality, a factor that still bothered the department nearly a year later. McCabe said.
Other than that incident, McCabe said in the other fire incidents firefighters had been able to extinguish the fire and keep damage minimal. Fire calls could vary from smoke removal to fully-involved fires, McCabe said.
On the national level, the number of working fires was decreasing, and McCabe said that trend seemed to be reflected in Eudora, which he said was fortunate not to face some fire problems that other communities do, like juvenile arsonists.
"It appears to me we have a fire-safe community; a smart community," he said.
Last year, fire calls made up about 20 percent of the fire department's work. The firefighters also responded to medical calls, false alarms, hazardous conditions, and even calls of the fabled cat-stuck-in-the-tree type emergencies.
"We're here to help in whatever capacity we can," McCabe said.
Firefighters responded to 246 EMS incidents in the city and 68 rurally last year, numbers McCabe said had a lot to do with the older population living in and around Eudora. The average medical call patient in 2003 was 50 years old.
Another aspect that makes the department's job unique is the development ofrural areas. As the city grew, McCabe said it annexed undeveloped land with native brush and grass, posing a fire hazard that didn't disappear when development began.
"They have property and equipment that is in these areas that isn't accessible by roads," McCabe said. "So it was determined we needed to have something with off-road capabilities to protect the property and owners who are buying up property."
The addition of a pick-up truck with a slide-in pump and water tank is one way the department is preparing for Eudora's growth, which adds the need for service and increases the number of calls. In addition to upgrading equipment and acquiring an extraction tool like the Jaws of Life, the department added six firefighters last month after the recruit class of 2002 finished its training and probation last year.
"We're kind of catching up and leveling off," McCabe said.
Those who were recruited last fall will be associate members of the department until the next training session, which will likely come after 2004 recruitment. McCabe said the fall effort didn't produce enough eligible applicants.
However, last year's training offered an added benefit to the department's current members because of the demanding training required of the most recent class.
"That kind of challenged the other members to work toward achieving the same levels as the new recruits were getting," McCabe said.
Another challenge the department faces is the response time, which came under fire from some community members during a mobile home fire last spring. Although the average response time last year was about five and a half minutes, McCabe said looking at Eudora's layout it wasn't a number he was happy with.
"I don't doubt for a minute the firefighters on this department are doing the best they can at getting their equipment on the trucks and getting to the call," he said. "I think this city needs to try and improve to a response time of less than four."
The station's location, at Ninth and Main streets, plays into the time crunch, too.
"When we do get a call on the other side of K-10, you're already looking at greater than a mile to a mile and a half," he said.
The distance plays into the department's hopes of having a more centrally-located public safety station as the city grows to the south.
Although recruiting new firefighters didn't necessarily help response times, McCabe said it allowed the department to accomplish necessary objectives before pulling up to a scene.
In addition to the "major accomplishment" of creating a manual detailing how the department operates from situation to situation, having a full-time chief in McCabe has also meant the department has assisted in situations that otherwise would most likely have had to function without Eudora firefighters' help.
McCabe said the department had also made friends and associates with mutual aid and had a list of resources to help the Eudora department.
"We're prepared to face about anything," he said.
With the increasing requirements placed on firefighters, McCabe said he was pleased to see the department offering detailed technical training beyond the basics and providing more challenges for the staff, like officer tests that begin Saturday.
"We want to make sure everybody has the opportunity to stake ownership with the department," McCabe said. "It's not easy to be a firefighter in this day and age, whether you're career or volunteer. I hope when someone in the community runs across one of our members they recognize them in some kind of capacity."

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