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Fire department reviews year of accomplishments

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By Carol A. Clark

The Los Alamos Fire Department operates six fire stations with 141 budgeted positions including 123 uniformed and 11 civilian personnel. They were kept busy this year as evidenced by Assistant Fire Chief/Fire Marshal Michael Thompson's briefing of the year's totals for fire and emergency calls."Our average number of calls this year was 161 per month," Thompson said. "We usually see more calls during the summer months due to the increase in outdoor activities. This August we saw our highest number of calls at 201."With an average of 5.3 emergency calls daily and just a few days to go, the department should reach 1,930 calls this year, he said, adding that the majority of their calls are for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and he estimates that 1,166 of this year's calls are medical related."Rescue 1 continues to be the most responded unit in the fire department with 813 responses," Thompson said. "Engine 6 is the most responded Engine and Medic 1 is the most responded Medical unit."Thompson was clearly delighted that the department saw no fire fatalities and no fire ground injuries or exposures this year."This year we had nine residential fires ranging from an overheated oven to a half duplex fire-loss and with all other structure types, our structure fire totals for the year is 13," he said.Thompson explained that wildland fires were limited this year due to the moisture and diligence of the public. There were only nine wildland fires in 2007 and combined with all other types of fires including vehicles and dumpsters, Thompson said the overall total is 67.Station 3, B shift is credited with maintaining the shortest time from station to incident for EMS calls of those receiving 30 calls or more this year. Of those receiving 10 or more calls, the station and shift with the shortest time from station to incident for fire calls, including false alarms, was Station 6, B shift. This year C shift averaged the most numbers of calls and the best overall times between the three shifts, Thompson said.The personnel residents are most likely to see on an emergency response in order of most calls attended were Firefighter/Paramedic Adam Muller who attended a full 13 percent of all calls, Firefighter/Paramedic Christopher Bartlett, Firefighter/Paramedic Joseph Candelaria, Firefighter/Paramedic Tracy Stidham and Firefighter/EMT B Ernest Agnew."If you look at the time spent on calls the picture changes slightly, mostly due to out of town patient transports," Thompson said. "Those spending the most time at incidents were Firefighter/Paramedic Adam Muller, Firefighter/EMT B Jason Block, Firefighter/Paramedic Tracy Stidham, Firefighter/EMT B Daniel Archuleta and Firefighter/Paramedic Chris Bartlett.LAFD has three new paramedics and eight new EMT Intermediates who Thompson said have devoted many hours to advancing their knowledge of emergency medical care."Part of our preparation for emergencies is to perform pre-incident plans of large facilities throughout the community and this year we have competed 311 building plans," he said. "Public education is a large part of our work to help prevent emergencies. In 2007, we participated in 80 events inside and out of Los Alamos County, touching approximately 5,584 lives."Fire Chief Doug MacDonald summed up 2007. "I'm very proud of our firefighters," he said. "We saved an awful lot of lives this year because of our firefighters' skills and teamwork."MacDonald praised the firefighters for their accomplished participation in this year's full scale exercise at TA-55 at Los Alamos National Laboratory and thanked the Los Alamos County Council, county staff and County Administrator Max Baker for their efforts toward the completion of the new fire station in White Rock this year."And we've certainly come a long way with the fire contract," he said. "Hopefully next month I'll some good news to announce about the contract."Thompson described 2007 as a very good year overall. "We have many new faces with the class of 19 cadets who graduated in August and these young men and women have hit the ground running," he said. "They are working very hard to make the transition to their new roles and responsibilities."Fire dispatch was finally integrated into the Consolidated Dispatch Center inside the Emergency Operations Center this year. Through innovative new software, LAFD is working to make sure appropriate crews respond to related calls, ensuring sufficient resources are available for additional emergencies."This is also making our responses safer because it limits the need to respond with lights and sirens to all calls," Thompson said. "Responding with lights and sirens, although very necessary in many instances, increases the risk for both the public and our responding crews. Nationally more than 100 firefighters will die this coming year. About 20 percent will die in motor vehicle accidents going to and from emergency calls. This sad statistic increases the need for our continued diligence in the vehicular area."Thompson concluded his end end briefing by saying LAFD crews are well trained, competent and driven to respond in a manner to which the citizens and visitors to Los Alamos County have come to expect and deserve.