SIDNEY — The annual presentation on the Sidney Department of Fire and Emergency Services was given during Sidney City Council’s teleconference meeting Monday evening.
Fire Chief Chad Hollinger gave his first overview presentation to council members as fire chief on the department’s 2020 statistics.
The annual report included Sidney Fire’s fire prevention activities, training hours, operation activities, significant events, the incident densities and response times by district.
Hollinger’s report began explaining the numerous personnel changes within the department due to multiple retirements and promotions. Last year, other than the retirement of Fire Chief Brad Jones, Assistant Chief Chris Niswonger, Lt. Rod Dyer, and firefighters Steve O’Meara and Doug Stammen also retired — taking with them a total of 144 years of experience, Hollinger said. Sidney Fire only added two firefighters, Josh Strawser and Jared Lindsey, in 2020. Due to budget constraints, two other firefighter positions remain open.
The fire protection office (FPO), which conducts inspections, fire investigations, plans review and fire safety education/training, is comprised of Deputy Fire Chief Dallas Davis Brian Lundy and Lt. Ryan Heitman. Hollinger expressed gratitude for Heitman returning to the FPO after moving up the ranks and out of the office. Seeing the need, amid short staffing, Heitman volunteered to help return to the FPO.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the public education program of FPO in 2020, Hollinger noted. Last year, the department conducted 336 fire prevention inspections, 15 fire investigations, one court ordered juvenile fire-setter program and one public education incident for a group of 60 people. No pre-K through fifth-grade school education programs were held for young students, as the schools have been limiting who can enter. Inspections were also down in 2020 by 29.3%, as many places were closed.
The fire chief expressed concern about young kids missing out on learning valuable fire prevention information. He is not sure how or if they will be able to make these visits up and worries the effects could be seen during the next few years with a rise in young people ordered to participate in the court’s juvenile firesetting program.
The training division is run by Davis and Lt. Greg Francis. Francis is new to the division, but is a good fit, Hollinger noted. The department underwent 2,729 total hours of training in 2020, averaging 80.2 hours per person. Training also saw a decrease in 2020, and was down by 45.1%.
Sidney Fire has three crews, which operates every third day, and contains a total of 10 firefighters each. Since staffing is down by 5.3%, Hollinger pointed out the department hasn’t operated with 10 members since 1993. At that time the department responded to a total of 2,309 calls, but in 2020, the department responded to 4,187 calls with that same number of firefighters.
The A-Crew is now headed up by Assistant Chief Keith Wiley with Lt. Rick Slife. In charge of the B-Crew is Assistant Chief Mark Barga with Lt. Jason Truesdale. The C-Crew is run by Assistant Chief Eric Barhorst with Lt. Bryan Rampage. Other than fighting fires and EMS calls, members also conduct rope, trench and ice rescues. Other types of rescues include fast moving water, confined space, HAZMAT, grain rescues and extrication from motor vehicle crashes and machinery.
There were 471 EMS and 123 fire incidents within the 2020 operations of township activities, Hollinger said.
Among the significant incidents during 2020, two lives were lost in April during a river rescue. Three people were rescued from the water, but one later died, and the body of a fourth person was found in the river two weeks later. Hollinger said the most expensive confirmed event last year was a structure fire on North Main Avenue in March with $150,000 in damages. An explosion at Ross Aluminum in May also caused significant damages, but Hollinger did not receive the total loss amount from the business.
Hollinger also reviewed the response times in 2020. The response times were broken down between fire and medical calls. The fire data showed, in 2020, SFD responded 92% of the time in 6.5 minutes to the center portion of Sidney, 89% to the west, and only 59% of the time to the north of town.
The standard is a 6 minute response time for EMS calls, Hollinger said. The medical call data for 2020 showed SFD successfully arrived within 6 minutes 88% of the time to the center of town, 82% to the west, and 49% of the time to areas north of Russell Road.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.