Archive for Thursday, January 25, 2007

Fire report reflects city growth

January 25, 2007

In his end-of-the-year report to the Eudora City Council, Eudora City Fire Chief Randy Ates characterized 2006 as a year of changes.

During the course of 2006, he assumed the role of chief ---- a position vacant for more than a year before his arrival. He ushered in a new class of six recruits and led the department during what turned out to the latest in an increasing pattern of emergency calls.

"I guess one of the things that jumps out compared to five years ago, is that, wow, we really are getting busier," Ates said.

According to the report, the department responded to a total of 107 incidents over the course of the year. Last year firefighters responded to a total of 79 calls. Five years ago, the number was 66.

Of the 107 calls, 65 were of reported fires and 42 for service. In total, the department responded to 18 structure fires. October and November tied for the busiest months of the year.

According to the report, the total number of calls has jumped 62 percent over the last five years. The amount of fire calls also spiked up 91 percent over the last five years.

The reason behind the jump became clear after Ates laid out two maps. One map showed where each call came from in 2006 the other outlined where each call originated from in 2001.

"Just looking at the two maps, back five years ago we didn't have a lot ofthe locations we have now," Ates said. "The number of calls has picked up, I believe, because the territories are growing."

Looking at the two maps confirmed the fact the current fire station is no longer as centrally located as it once was, Ates said.

"This station would not be the best-choice location anymore," Ates said, "The question arises, 'What's the best move? Do we put a second station on the other side of town, or do we find a new central location to establish as the main?'"

Each option has relative advantages, Ates said. Building one new central station elsewhere in town would be cheaper in the long run because all services would be centralized, but would incur a higher start-up cost.

Constructing a second station elsewhere might be cheaper upfront but could cost more money down the road, Ates said.

Although the year-end numbers hinted at the need for a new station, they also provided Ates with a surprise when he calculated the department's overall response time.

Because Eudora's population has been spreading out -- particularly south of Kansas Highway 10 -- Ates predicted the results would show a slower overall response time.

He did find it takes longer for the volunteer firefighters to get to the station, but the overall response time didn't increase.

"The reason it didn't change statistically was because we're still getting the first fire truck out the door quickly," Ates said.

In the report, Ates gave the council a rundown of grants applied for and awarded to the department, including a $500 grant from Wal-Mart and another from the county, which provided the department with four refurbished air packs with bottles that last more than twice as long as the department's older equipment.

Ates said the department would use 2007 as a planning year and continue to search for recruits.

"Compared to most fire departments we're doing good with personnel," Ates said. "We still have room for three or four more if anyone is interested."

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