Fire department sees changes, improvements in 2021



SIDNEY — The Sidney Department of Fire and Emergency Services saw many changes and improvements in 2021. The department engaged numerous projects that addressed department operations and facilities. The department purchased a used medium-duty ambulance unit and restriped/lettered the unit. This apparatus replaced a refurbished ambulance that had increasing mechanical issues. Additionally, the department purchased new battery-powered hydraulic tools (Jaws of Life), thermal imaging cameras, and cardiac monitors. In regards to facilities, the parking lot behind Station 1 (222 W. Poplar St.) was sealed and striped to prolong its life expectancy. A feasibility study was conducted by Freytag & Associates to identify issues related to Station 2 (411 S. Vandemark). Station 2 was opened in 1982 and due to increasing service demands; the department has outgrown the space. The feasibility study will guide city administration in its decision to renovate or replace the building.

Fire Chief Chad Hollinger has submitted the following report:

Assistant Chief Mark Barga retired in August 2021 with over 30 years of service to the city. His retirement prompted the promotions of Firefighter Jeff Simon to lieutenant and Lt. Jason Truesdale to assistant chief. Firefighter Jacob Finfrock was hired in April to fill the vacancy created after the retirement of Chief Brad Jones in 2020. Firefighter Hank Ruhenkamp joined the department in July ahead of Assistant Chief Barga’s retirement.

Throughout 2021, the departments daily operational staffing remained at 10 per shift (with a minimum of eight on-duty), which is the same as it was in 1993. For comparison, in 1993 the department responded to 2,309 total runs (1,817 EMS and 492 fire/service). As this article is prepared, a hiring process is underway to begin replacing positions that were left vacant during the pandemic-related economic downturn in 2020. The goal is to return the department to 11 personnel per shift by the end of 2022.

During the past year, the department responded to 4,039 calls for service. This is the sixth year in a row that our calls for service have exceeded 4,000 alarms. Overlapping calls (multiple incidents occurring at the same time) occurred on 1,344 incidents (33.28%). The department received mutual aid from our county partners 13 times and gave aid on 149 incidents. There were 2,936 EMS calls and 1,103 fire calls for the year. The fire incidents resulted in nine civilian injuries, one fatality, and three firefighter injuries; and accounted for fire losses totaling $819,750.

The Fire Prevention Division performed 234 fire safety inspections and conducted 24 fire investigations (4 township contractual areas / 20 city). Due to decreased staffing levels, prevention officers were reassigned to operations crews to reduce overtime expenses for most of 2021. This resulted in less education and inspection efforts for the year. Preventing fires and encouraging safe practices are key components of the division.

Over 4,331 hours of department training was conducted in 2021. Personnel participated in medical training with specific classes in; Cardiac, Geriatric and Pediatric Protocol, Trauma, 12-Lead EKG, Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), and other EMS courses. Fire training included: pump operations, SCBA, search and rescue, and fire ground tactics. Technical rescue training included: ice rescue, swiftwater, trench rescue, rope rescue, vehicle/machinery rescue, hazmat operations, and confined space.

The coming year has the potential to be a year of monumental growth for the city and the department stands ready to fulfill our mission, “to serve and protect the community by preventing the loss of life and property.”