Local Government 112 — the fire department

Sidney’s Department of Fire & Emergency Services is a full-service, career department that delivers a wide range of professional fire protection and emergency services. The department, under the direction of Fire Chief Brad Jones, consists of three divisions: administration, operations, and prevention.

The administration division is responsible for management of all fiscal, human, and physical resources as well as the overall operation of a 24-hour, 7-day-a-week organization. This division is also responsible for the ongoing training of all personnel in emergency medical services, fire, technical rescue as well as professional development. Last year, department personnel completed over 6,000 hours of additional training.

The operations division is responsible for the day-to-day delivery of emergency services including fire suppression, emergency medical service calls, hazardous materials mitigation, technical rescue including auto extrication, trench rescue, high angle rope rescue, confined space rescue, and swift water rescue. The operations division also maintains the department fleet and conducts pre-emergency planning inspections of target buildings throughout the community.

Sidney is a traditional department in the sense that EMS/firefighters work 24-hour shifts, then have 48 hours off before returning to work. Each crew (A, B and C) have an assistant chief as their immediate supervisor.

Assistant Chief Chad Hollinger leads A Crew. Assistant Chief Chris Niswonger leads B Crew. Assistant Chief Eric Barhorst leads C Crew. Each crew currently has a compliment of 10.

The Department of Fire & Emergency Services maintains four ambulances, each equipped as Advanced Life Support Units. The department also has one quint, one heavy rescue engine, one aerial ladder platform, one utility pickup with 4-wheel drive, one utility car, two front-line pumpers, two boats for water rescue, and five staff cars (chief, deputy chief, and fire prevention). The department also has a mobile fire safety education center.

In addition, to providing services to the incorporated areas of the city, the department provides contractual services to the following unincorporated areas: fire protection to the southern half of Franklin Township, fire and EMS response to the northern half of Orange Township, and fire and EMS to all areas of Clinton Township. Also included is fire and EMS service to Interstate 75 from Sidney to the Miami County line, which includes Clinton, Orange, and Washington Townships; and fire service in Franklin Township north to Sharp Road.

In 2016, the department responded to 4,083 calls for service. This is the highest volume of calls in the department’s history.

The Department of Fire & Emergency Services responded to 813 fire calls within the city as well as nearly 2,700 EMS calls. Added to those numbers are nearly 90 township fire calls, more than 900 mutual aid fire calls and 455 township, mutual aid and other EMS calls. This averages more than 11 calls per day making for a very busy department.

The Prevention Division, under the direction of Deputy Chief Cameron Haller, is responsible for all facets of the City’s Fire Prevention Program. This program includes an aggressive inspection program, fire safety education, fire investigation, juvenile fire setters program, and building plans review.

The most important element in surviving a fire is a working smoke detector. The second element is a fire escape plan that is both developed and practiced. If you do not have a working smoke detector, contact the Department of Fire & Emergency Services at 937-498-2346. They administer an income-based program that could provide a free smoke detector for your home or apartment.

As the city continues to grow northward, there has been ongoing discussion of an additional fire station located in the north end of Sidney. Those discussions date back more than a quarter century. During that time, Sidney’s demographics have changed considerably. The city’s footprint has increased by 1,599.308 acres, our population by 1,752 people, and the number of employment opportunities by 5,876 jobs. In fact, every day Sidney’s population increases by more than 5,000 people (the size of a small city) as individuals come into the city to work!

During City Council’s biennial retreat in 2008, the third station was prioritized as City Council’s number two goal. In each of the sessions since (2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016), the station has remained on Council’s list of priority goals.

Following Council’s 2008 session, a Community Risk Assessment & Standard of Cover analysis was completed using a template developed by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International. That analysis was presented to council by then Fire Chief Stan Crosley in March 2009.

This marked the first time in the Sidney Fire Department’s history that an open and true comparison of the department’s performance against national standards and criteria had been attempted. The 2009 analysis was updated by Fire Chief Brad Jones in 2014. In addition, the Insurance Service Organization (ISO) 2002 external study was updated in 2012.

As a first step in establishing a third station, City Council approved the purchase of 12.5 acres of land on Wapakoneta Avenue for a future third fire station. The land purchase for the vital third fire station is the first step in a multi-step process. As much as we might like to begin construction of a new station immediately, a long-range financial plan must be developed to cover the staffing and equipment needs necessary for a third station.

We continue to strategize how to stretch tax dollars to accomplish that end. Once that strategy has been developed and agreed upon by council, we will be sure to share the plan of action with you.

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By Mike Barhorst

Contributing columnist

The writer is the mayor of Sidney.