Union firefighters exceeded 1,000 calls last year for the first time in the history of the district.

According to a report prepared by Fire Chief Russ Hamilton, there were 1,019 calls in 2012, that is 92 more than the 927 calls in 2011.Crews responded to 946 calls in 2010 and 981 calls in 2009.Hamilton noted that the planning committee formed in 2009 while the district sought a sales tax expected the district to reach the 1,000-call milestone last year.

“The committee anticipated it would happen by 2012 based on the increase in need of fire services,” said Hamilton. 

“They planned for this.”He noted firefighters are responding to more EMS calls to provide additional staffing at emergency medical scenes.“Agencies are working better together,” said Hamilton. “There are tasks (at emergency scenes) that need to be accomplished in a quick manner and the additional staffing allows for those tasks to get accomplished.”

The increase in responses to EMS calls is, in part, due to meetings with fire and ambulance directors in the area.In some districts, fire crews were dispatched to more EMS calls than in other districts, Hamilton said.

“We all want to be on the same page on calls we respond to,” he said. “That makes it easier on dispatchers as well.”

Calls were up in each major category other than automatic alarms, which includes smoke detectors, carbon monoxide alarms and sprinkler systems. 

There were 91 automatic alarms in 2012, a decrease of 37 from the previous year.This was the first full year that the district had a paid staff on duty 24/7. A third crew was hired in the summer of 2011.“The response time has improved,” said Hamilton.

 “When you have firefighters in the firehouse ready to respond you get immediate response from firefighters and equipment.”

Fires in 2011

The number of actual fire calls increased in 2012 by 37 from 2011. There were 124 calls last year and 87 calls the previous year.Hamilton added that there were only a few major fires, including an industrial dry cleaning company in the Union city limits.

That fire was at Akcire Group, Inc., located at 6 Chad Lane, Union. The building is off of Prairie Dell Road. The business laundered oil-soaked absorbent pads. There also was a fire at a business on Locust Street in downtown Union on July 15. 

The fire was at 202 E. Locust St. in the building that housed Crossroads Counseling Services.A fire in the Villa Ridge area destroyed a garage and apartments at a home on Highway V. Authorities said sparks from a wood-burning stove ignited the blaze.Union crews provided mutual aid to major fires at a former sawmill south of New Haven, and at a concrete plant in Sullivan.Training Hours

Hamilton told The Missourian that he is pleased with the continuing increase in the number of training hours firefighters complete each year.

There were 15,564 hours of training in 2012, compared to 14,408 in 2011. That is an increase of 1,156 hours. There were 11,488 in 2010.

“We get a lot of information from various training opportunities,” he said. “The level of education — classroom and practical — keeps enhancing every day.”

Hamilton further added that firefighters learn training exercises during classes and share techniques with other firefighters.

Following is a breakdown of types of alarms the district responded to in 2012:

• Building, vehicle and brush fires — 124, an increase of 37;

• Vehicle accidents, assist EMS, and vehicle and water rescues — 488, an increase of 83;

• Fuel spills, gas leaks, power lines, electrical hazards and building collapses — 61, no change;

• Assist police, animal rescues and mutual aid standby — 64, an increase of 12;

• Check the area, controlled burns and unable to locate — 167, an increase of 13;

• Smoke detectors, carbon monoxide alarms and sprinkler systems — 91, a decrease of 37; and

• Citizen complaints and unintentional dispatches — 11, a decrease of 16.Fire Inspection and Training Activities for 2011:

• Commercial inspections performed — 1,886, an increase of 279;• New occupancy inspections — 144, an increase of 98.

• New commercial building permits — 117, an increase of 53; and• Documented fire training hours — 15,564, an increase of 1,156.