Watertown Fire and Rescue Newsletter
Volume 1, Issue 1
2009: A year of changes at your Watertown Fire Department
By Chief Nick Swinhart There have been many changes at your Watertown Fire Department over the past 12 months. With the retirement of two personnel and the resignation of two others, there are plenty of new faces at the station, including my own! WFR has seen many operational changes in 2009. We’ve instituted a comprehensive policy manual, added a new ambulance, performed an exhaustive internal investigation of operational efficiency, and begun planning our new west fire station to be located in the Derby Downs neighborhood. These changes would not have been possible if not for our dedicated personnel. As in previous years, increasing ambulance calls continue to challenge our organization. Fire calls, as they are nationally, continue to fall. Despite this, we’ve had four high profile fires just in the last month. Out -of-town ambulance transfers also continue to be a big part of our operations. These are patients we take from our local hospital to hospitals in Sioux Falls, Fargo, or even Minneapolis. Our overall call volume has jumped 4% in the last year alone. Also making news recently is the fact that WFR has been approved to apply for three new firefighter positions through a federal grant. In the 35 years since WFR has provided ambulance coverage, our call volume has risen 265% while overall staffing has increased by only one position during that same period of time. This approved increase in staffing, in conjunction with a proposed student resident program, will help address our increasing call volume and allow for the additional staffing required by the new west station. It has been a pleasure serving the citizens of Watertown for the past year, and I wish all of you a happy and safe holiday season!
Contact: 129 1st Avenue NW Watertown, SD 57201 (605) 886-4733 email@example.com
Nick Swinhart Fire Chief
2009 Emergency Calls
200 180 160 140 120 100 80 60 40 20 0
n Fe uar br y ua r M y ar ch Ap ril M ay Ju ne Ju Au ly Se g p t u st em O ber c N t ob ov e r em be r
Doug Kranz Asst. Chief Operations
Ambulance Fire Out-of-town transfers
Pat Smith Asst. Chief/Fire Inspector
One of the questions we get the most often is people asking us what firefighters do when they’re not out on calls. The days when firefighters would sit around playing cards on their down time is long gone. Most of our firefighters’ spare time is spent conducting state and federally mandated training. This is required to maintain our licenses as paramedics, as well as keep us proficient in high angle and confined space rescue, hazardous materials, and airport crash and rescue.
By Capt. Don Rowland WFR has applied for an AFG SAFER grant to hire 3 additional firefighters in 2010. Ultimately, the goal of SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) is to help grantees enhance their ability to attain 24-hour staffing and thus assuring their communities have adequate protection from fire and fire-related hazards. The standards that WFR follows are from NFPA 1710 (National Fire Protection Agency). Federal regulations require a minimum of 4 personnel on scene within 4 minutes before a structure fire can be fought unless there is overwhelming evidence there is a rescue situation. If awarded this grant for 3 personnel, the department would increase this standard by 20%. Although this seems like a small percentage, WFR realizes that it will be difficult at best to ever reach full NFPA 1710 compliance. The total amount of the grant is $310,000 over a 2 year period. These positions will also have to be maintained for one full year beyond the end of the grant. These new positions will help with the staffing of the new west fire station. With the additional firefighter per shift, we’d have a minimum of 3 personnel at the west station and 6 at the uptown station. We would even be able to add a 4th person to the west station on full staffed days.
The Inside Word on Operations
By Asst. Chief Doug Kranz WFR over the last decade has been planning for expansion to meet the needs of a growing city. Studies have shown that we have a response coverage problem on the east and west ends of town. The new west station is the highest priority due to the railroad tracks and the river dividing the city. It is not unusual for emergency routes to be blocked at times due to railroad traffic. The site picked for the new station is on airport ground across from Derby Downs. This location was selected to give WFR the best response time to the area west of the railroad tracks and around Lake Kampeska. Under FAA recommendations, we are also working on a new airport fire station that would be connected to the west station. The airport station would be funded by the FAA. Watertown also has an opportunity for a future training center in this same location. These projects will serve our community for decades to come.
The Daily Duties of a Firefighter
WFR firefighters work a 24 hours on/48 hours off shift schedule. This is by far the national standard in the fire service. Some large metropolitan departments work 8 and 12 hour shifts, but this model doesn’t work well for a city like Watertown. Not only does it cost more money and require more personnel for such a schedule, but Watertown’s decentralized and rural population doesn’t have “busy” and “slow” hours like a big city does, which negates the primary advantage of 8 hour shifts. WFR firefighters start their shifts at 7:00 am every morning and work for 24 hours straight. They work on training and equipment maintenance during the day hours. In the evenings, they are allowed downtime to rest or perhaps cook a shift meal. Of course there are often emergency calls during this period of time, so sometimes their schedule can change at a moment’s notice. WFR employees work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. They’ll even be working on Christmas Day when most people are home with their families, ready to protect the community whenever they are needed.