Washington Fire Chief Tim Frankenberg says 2018 was a year of changes for his volunteer fire company, but that didn’t affect the level of service and professionalism provided to the community by the men and women of the department.
In early July, Frankenberg took command of the department from the well-respected veteran retiring fire chief Bill Halmich.
In addition to the transitions, members still had to focus on the realities of protecting more than 50 square miles of the fire district and conducting the training necessary to be ready to respond.
“In 2018, members responded to a total of 675 requests for service,” Frankenberg reported. “The group participated in more than 6,000 hours of training activities and documented over 8,500 hours of responses and nontraining activities. There were a total of 436 responses within the 10 square miles of the city of Washington.”
Frankenberg added the highest demand is in the center core of the city between High Street and Highway 47, which is also the area of the highest population density.
There were 167 responses within the Washington Community Fire Protection District’s 55-square-mile area surrounding the city.
“A majority of the district responses were in the Krakow area,” Frankenberg said. “The company responded to 72 requests for mutual aid of which 34 were canceled while responding and 13 were to provide standby for other districts.”
In return, the city received mutual aid three times and the fire district received mutual aid at seven of the responses.
Like last year, Frankenberg explained the number of working fires was fairly low in the total area served with four working structure fires.
“This can be directly correlated to current codes, especially the Property Maintenance Code which provides for inspections of residential buildings at the change of occupancy.
Fire personnel provided numerous fire safety talks, station tours and visits. An open house of fire headquarters was held during Fire Prevention Week and this is planned to be an annual event.
Fire personnel continue to actively participate with plan reviews and inspections of new developments to assist with street access, fire lanes, fire sprinklers and fire alarm systems.
The fire service trend of an increase in emergency medical calls holds true for the Washington area as well.
There were 234 medical responses, 151 of these vehicle accidents with 11 victim extrications.
The opioid epidemic caused an increase in responses with 73 nonvehicle accident EMS calls.
There were 139 automatic fire alarm responses, including residential and commercial alarms sounding.
There were nearly an equal number of hazardous condition calls of 94, wires down or electrical equipment arcing, and 92 good intent calls. There were a total of 65 responses to fires, both in the Washington area and assisting other districts.
Frankenberg explained the busiest day of the week continues to be Thursday with about 3 percent more calls on that day than on any other day of the week.
More than 65 percent of all responses have a unit on the scene within five minutes and this includes “on the quiet” or reduced code responses.
The busiest hour of the day is between 5 and 6 p.m. The slowest period is between 2 and 4 a.m.
“There is an average of 10 volunteer firefighters per call, the equivalent of a two-engine company response,” Frank-enberg said. “The Washington area is very fortunate to have businesses that allow firefighters to leave work to answer calls for service and dedicated men and women who volunteer to serve.”
There are presently 73 active interior firefighters with four pending applications.
He added the number of local volunteer firefighters is increasing contrary to the nationwide trend of decreasing number of volunteers, which translates to a more than $2 million savings per year to local taxpayers.
In addition to two chief officers’ positions being filled and a captain being promoted in 2018, a fire station study was completed and presented to the city council as a roadmap for the future.
The city of Washington placed an order for a new heavy rescue squad truck, which will replace the 1998 unit currently in service.
“That new truck should arrive sometime in mid-April,” Frankenberg said. “The fire district placed an additional water tanker into service in Station 5 in Krakow, early in the year, and ordered a replacement for its 1995 engine at Station 5. The new engine should be delivered sometime in mid-July.”
The fire district is also finishing building maintenance and upgrades to Station 5, including a new roof, siding and gutters, a fire alarm system and bunks for firefighters to sleep over during weather or other extended incidents.