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Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Fire department releases annual report

The Grinnell Fire Department hopes to purchase a new ladder truck. Photo by Elena Copell.

Most city departments in Grinnell are required to produce an annual report, which records the state of the department and any notable incidents of the year. The Grinnell fire department released their 2017 report last month. 

The report includes the number of calls the department received, in addition to the reasons for them. Any changes in personnel are listed, as well as significant fires or accidents to which the department responded. The report also outlines training and outreach efforts. Dan Sicard, the fire chief of the Grinnell fire department for the past 14 years, said that the report is meant to keep city administrators and concerned citizens abreast of the fire department’s activities. 

According to the report, the Grinnell fire department received 652 calls in 2017, a slight increase from 2016 but still within the typical yearly ebb and flow of calls received, Sicard said. Those 652 calls included everything from house fires to vehicle extractions to false alarms.

“We do everything from getting the cat out of the tree — literally — to hazardous materials,” Sicard said.

Most of the calls received by the fire department garner little to no media attention, but Sicard pointed out that if no one notices, that means that the fire department is doing a good job.

“We always joke about when we do our best job is when we can stop the fire before it’s, you know, coming out [of] the roof. Nobody really sees that,” he said.

The report included a list of the 2017 fire department personnel: five full-time workers, three part-time workers and 24 volunteers. Due to this heavy reliance on volunteers, Sicard stressed the importance of recruitment. He also predicted increased difficulty in attracting volunteers in the future, something consistent with the nationwide trend of fewer and fewer people volunteering for the fire department.

The report detailed fire prevention and training programs as well. In 2017, the Grinnell fire department continued a program that provides free smoke detector installation in homes across Grinnell and engaged in multiple public education programs. 

“It’s a lot easier to prevent the fire than to put it out,” Sicard said. 

The firefighters themselves are involved in continuous training. 

“The number one priority for us, other than providing protection for the city and town, is we have to keep our own people safe,” Sicard said. “If we’re not safe and well-trained to do what we do, we’re not helping the public.” 

Grinnell’s volunteer firefighters train for three hours twice a month, not including training sessions every few months that last entire weekends.

Although there have been no notable increases in fire activity in Grinnell in recent years, Sicard noted that an increase in rural calls has occurred during his time as chief.

He attributes this to both a rising number of city people who move to rural areas and still expect city services, and to the increase in popularity of cellphones, which allow passersby to more easily notify emergency services, to which the department is obligated to respond.

In 2018 Sicard hopes to have a “fire safe year,” in which there are no injuries or fatalities. He also hopes that fire department will continue to work towards the purchase of a new ladder truck. Despite the national standard of replacement after 20 years, the Grinnell ladder truck is 27 years old. 

“We’ve serviced it well, we’ve kept it in good shape, but it’s getting to the end of its lifespan, so our goal here is to replace [the truck],” Sicard said.

That being said, Sicard estimates the cost of a new ladder truck to be “just under a million dollars,” a hefty price for a small community like Grinnell. 

The report ends with a summation of the work and mission of the Grinnell Fire Department: “The Grinnell Fire Department strives to continue protecting life and property to the highest standard. We also plan on continuing our efforts to contribute to, and be a part of, what makes the Grinnell community a special place to live.”

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