A Busy Year

Major Incidents, No Fatalities Mark Dunkirk Fire Department’s 2017

Fire Chief Michael Edwards recalled 2017 as one for the books for four major incidents: A man pinned by a tree on April 12 (pictured), a fire at the old school at 151 King Street on Aug. 2, a chemical fire at the steel plant on Sept. 10 and a fire at the Steger Apartments on Dec. 28. P-J file photo

Several major incidents and some needed upgrades marked 2017 for the Dunkirk Fire Department.

While the total number of calls was down from 2016 with 2,050 total calls, firefighters were kept busy with 67 more transports and 55 more overlapping calls. Those numbers clocked in at 734 and 369, respectively.

“(Transports) seem to go up every year and it jumped up again this year. I think that’s a trend with most fire departments,” Fire Chief Michael Edwards said. “Because it has been gradual, it hasn’t been too difficult to adapt to and we’ve been able to cover the calls. You’ll see in the report that 18 percent of all of our calls are overlapping calls, which means we are already out on a call when another one comes in … It was a busy year for us.”

While the number of transports increased, the number of emergency service calls decreased slightly to 1,634. Overall, the increase in transports more than made up for the further decline in Medicaid reimbursement, according to Edwards.

He explained the service brought in a gross revenue of $160,000, $20,000 more than 2016. The net revenue after the billing service’s fee is taken out would be around $145,000. However, the department considers all of that profit since it did not increase staffing or equipment to provide the service.

“Our revenues have steadily increased each year and I think that’s because our increase in transports each year has increased enough to level off the declining Medicaid reimbursement,” Edwards added.

There were 416 fire-related calls in 2017, including 66 fires, two overpressure rupture/explosion/overheat without fire, 78 hazardous conditions, 87 service calls, 47 good intent calls, 131 false alarm calls, four severe weather incidents and one special incident.

Edwards recalled 2017 as one for the books for four major incidents: A man pinned by a tree on April 12, the fire at the old school at 151 King Street on Aug. 2, the chemical fire at the steel plant on Sept. 10 and the fire at the Steger Apartments on Dec. 28.

Of the 66 fires, 36 were found to be unintentional, six were intentional, six were caused by failure of equipment or heat source, 14 are still under investigation and in three cases a cause could not be determined.

The department also responded for mutual aid to another municipality 37 times and received mutual aid five times. Response time to an incident stayed consistent at around three minutes.

EQUIPMENT UPGRADES AND NEEDED REPAIRS

One major achievement in 2017 was the completion of the upgrade to the new VHF high band trunked radio system.

Edwards said the old low band system was limited by distance as well as restricting who could be involved in the communication.

“It allows a system for better coverage,” Edwards explained. “… With this system we can talk to each other, we can talk to other agencies throughout the county. It aids with interoperability, so if one agency is on a certain frequency, we can switch to that frequency and talk to them even though they might be in a different part of the county responding. It has tactical channels that we can use in large-scale emergencies. It allows us to be able to communicate with outside agencies who are in on the system, like a highway department, or New York State Thruway Authority, the Coast Guard, where before we sometimes would have to use separate radios to communicate. This can all be done through that system.”

In addition, several stations received much-needed roof repairs.

“We were in dire need of some roof replacements. The mayor was able to negotiate a deal with the roofing company to come and replace the roof on fire headquarters and also completely replace the roof on Station 3 on Middle Road, which was desperately needed. We had a severe water problem at both stations and the roofs needed to be replaced. We also did some repairs to the roof at Station 4. There are plans in the future to replace that roof,” the chief added.

Also fixed was the concrete pad and sidewalk in front of fire headquarters and some interior remodeling. Edwards said some minor interior upgrades will continue this year as well as some exterior ones at fire headquarters.

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