Fort Dodge Fire Department: Lifesaving progress

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea Assistant Fire Chief Lenny Sanders activates an automatic lift system that will load a cot into the Fort Dodge Fire Department’s new ambulance. Sanders said using the system eliminates the possibility that firefighters will sustain back injuries lifting the cot into the ambulance.

Some relatively simple work performed by Fort Dodge firefighters produced dramatic, lifesaving results in the past year.

That work consisted of getting on stepladders to install smoke detectors or put fresh batteries in existing detectors, all at no charge.

In the past 18 months or so, the firefighters conducted two smoke detector blitzes during which they went door to door in a neighborhood, asking if the people living there needed smoke detectors or new batteries in their existing detectors.

Assistant Fire Chief Lenny Sanders said more than 400 smoke detectors were installed during the two blitzes.

Some of those detectors went in a home at 717 Riverside St. N.W. When a fire broke out in that house on the snowy evening of Jan. 25, 2016, the detectors sounded off and all four people in the house escaped unharmed.

”Because we had working smoke alarms in there, that family is alive today,” Fire Chief Kent Hulett said shortly after the blaze.

That success was repeated on Dec. 20 when a furnace motor burned out and began filling the house at 1103 10th Ave. S.W. with smoke. Again, the recently installed smoke detectors sounded off, alerting the residents to the problem.

The successful smoke detector blitzes were among the accomplishments for the Fire Department during a year in which it added personnel and equipment.

”We have and will continue to strive to provide the best fire protection at the best cost,” Sanders said.

”We are by no means ever going to get to the point where we say we’re good enough,” he added. ”We’re always going to strive for excellence.”

During 2016, the Fire Department added six new firefighters, including three whose wages and benefits will be paid for with a federal grant for the next two years.

Three of the new hires filled vacancies, but the three hired with the grant money are filling new postions.

The addition of those three brings the department’s staffing to 35. That includes Hulett, Sanders, three captains, three lieutenants and 27 firefighters.

The newest firefighters are Adam Mobley, Mike Wiltzius, Devon Schuster, Aaron Kampman, Spencer Gratton and Zachary Rickman.

Kampman, Gratton and Rickman were hired with the assistance of a $444,594 Staffing Adequately for Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that was awarded in August.

The new firefighters have a new ambulance to work with and will have a new pumper within the next year.

The new ambulance, built on a Ford chassis by Lifeline Emergency Vehicles of Sumner, cost $210,000. It is very similiar to an ambulance purchased in 2014.

It replaces a 2001 model that was purchased used.

The new pumper, ordered by the City Council in November, will be able to pump 2,000 gallons of water a minute. It will carry 500 gallons of water and 25 gallons of foam. It is being built by Toyne Inc., of Breda. It cost $636,768.03.

When it is delivered, a 2001 model pumper will become a reserve unit to be used at major fires or when another truck is out of service for repairs.

Sanders said when the new pumper arrives, the department’s bucket truck, called a Snorkel, will be sold.

Also during the past year, the department purchased 35 portable radios for $40,892.45. Now, all of the firefighters have a radio. That will improve operations and safety at emergency scenes, according to Sanders.

Other equipment acquistions include new hose, a system to remove diesel exhaust from the garage area of the firehouse and some air masks that have small thermal imaging cameras built into them.

Upgrading the Fort Dodge Fire Department’s rating with the agency that determines fire insurance rates is one of Sanders’ long-term goals.

The Insurance Services Office rates fire departments on a scale of one to 10, with one being the best and 10 meaning no fire protection at all.

Fort Dodge is currently rated as a Class 4. According to Sanders, that means the department is in the top 16 percent of fire departments nationwide.

He believes the department can achieve a Class 3 rating, which would place it in the top 6 percent of departments.

He also plans to get the department accredited by the Center for Public Safety Excellence. He wants to start the three- to four-year accreditation process during 2017.


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