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Elko Fire Department incidents

Rescue and emergency medical calls make up more than half of the city fire department's responses. And false alarms result in twice as many calls as actual fires do.

ELKO – City firefighters responded to 2,621 calls last year, including 98 fires.

“Over the last 10 years there has been a drastic increase in calls,” said Deputy Fire Chief Jack Snyder. “In 2008 we only had 1,700 calls and now we are running 2,600 calls in 2018 with the same staffing and the same apparatus …”

The volume of calls is resulting in more “overlapping.” Snyder said there were 531 back-to-back calls, which happen when all units are committed and can’t go to another emergency, or when one unit is on a call and the other has to go on a subsequent call.

In his report to the Elko City Council this week Snyder noted that the downtown area is the busiest for calls. The second busiest area is in the northeastern part of town.

He explained that the northeast section is the farthest away from the current fire station and that this needs to be taken into consideration as the city looks at building a new fire station.

Average response times varied from 5.74 to 22.13 minutes, depending on a number of factors.

“We take these statistics we have and that is how we do the analysis for where we want to put new stations and where we will look at apparatus placements to reduce the response time,” Snyder said. “The national response time is four minutes. Right now we are not meeting that but when we build the new station we should be able to meet the four-minute response times anywhere in the city.”

Last fall the council voted to reserve three city-owned parcels of land on Ruby Vista Drive for a second fire station.

Snyder said a new reporting system has helped the agency provide better statistics. Numbers show that the department is consistently busy throughout the year and that they are busiest from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m. at night.

Further breakdown revealed that Fridays and Sundays are the busiest for fire-related incidents.

Compared to countrywide statistics the department is doing very well on the rating scale, according to Snyder. The Elko department received its Insurance Services Inspection and audit in late 2018.

“We missed an ISO 2 rating by 2.2 points, so we are still considered an ISO of 3,” Snyder said.

“As we move forward we will be able to obtain that ISO 2 with some changes,” he said.

The department’s total score was 77.94 out of 105 points. The ISO ratings are broken down into different areas of service. Ten percent is related to emergency communications in the dispatch center, 40 percent relates to the water system, and the other 50 percent is based on the fire department and its operations.

“We have an amazing water system for this community which is a huge help when it comes to reducing the insurance premiums for the residents and commercial industries,” Snyder said. However, the lack of access to Next Gen 911 is a crippling factor involved in dispatch. The fire department is one of only four in the country that does not have it.

“As you can see, the dispatch center only received 3.9 out of 10 points’” Snyder said, pointing to figures on an overhead display. “For the fire department we received 35.03 out of 50 and the water supply received 40 points out of 40. In community risk reduction they scored 5 out of 5.5.”

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According to Snyder, when the community gets Next Gen 911 and more dispatchers are hired he is certain the department will rise to the level of an ISO 2.

The need for newer and better equipment is always an issue. Snyder discussed the need for a 4-wheel drive vehicle owned only by the city. Currently, the agency shares one unit with the county.

On the prevention side of things, Snyder credited Fire Marshal John Holmes with his diligent work schedule.

In 2018 Holmes completed1028 inspections, 185 plan reviews, 79 fire investigations, 23 nuisance abatement inspections, 42 juvenile intervention contacts, 165 re-inspections, 96 new business license inspections, 36 NFPA 1,500 monthly safety inspections, 64 fire protection systems and 39 courtesy inspections.

The department does extensive youth education each year. The agency completed 84 school fire drills, 16 student station tours and had a total student interaction count of 33,362.

In the community the agency conducted 1,500 fire prevention week interactions, presented eight fire extinguisher classes, conducted 116 public education programs, taught 20 CPR classes and installed 103 smoke detectors.

Career staff completed 5,479.25 hours in training and volunteer staff completed 1479.2 hours.

Members of the department received 40 fire certifications. Capt. James Johnston obtained his paramedic certification and bachelor’s degree from Great Basin College. Joel Finley graduated from the National Fire Academy Command and Control of Incident Operations. And 99 percent of volunteers were certified to Firefighter I and Hazmat operations.

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