Tallassee Fire Department
2016 Annual Report
Prepared by: Travis M. Jones, Fire Chief
As the Fire Chief, I am pleased to present to you the Tallassee Fire Department’s Annual Report for CY2016. The purpose of this document is to summarize the department’s activities and accomplishments, as well as give a statement of the department’s 2017 goals. The report is not designed to cover all aspects of the department, but is an effort to raise awareness for leaders and citizens of the City of Tallassee.
Tallassee Fire Department’s primary core areas:
Tallassee Fire Department’s members are the core reason for the department’s overall mission success. During CY2016, they dedicated their lives to protecting Tallassee’s citizens without a loss of life and without a serious injury to a member or citizen of the community. Their ability to safely respond to calls, to deploy tactical objectives, and to mitigate risks has directly contributed to the department’s ability to save lives, property, and the environment. Without their professionalism, the City’s Insurance Services Office (ISO) fire protection rating would be expected to increase from 3 to 10, thus resulting in a significant increase in insurance premiums. The department’s firefighters are dedicated to serving the citizens of Tallassee, whether it be in responding to emergencies, participating in training, or supporting the citizens at public events.
In order to meet the department’s standards of response coverage, the department’s staffing primarily relies on the dedication of volunteers, with the exception of our staffing which is made up of our membership from 8am to 5pm, Monday - Friday. That is to say, only during these hours are on-duty firefighters paid to be available to answer calls and accomplish daily tasks. Currently, volunteer firefighters are paid a $20 per call stipend while fire officers are paid a $25 per call stipend since they are required to acquire and maintain a higher level of technical expertise, training, and overall responsibility.
As of 31 Dec, the department has an active roster of 31 firefighters. Even through our recruitment and retention efforts, we have consistently averaged 25 firefighters assigned over the past 5 years. Unfortunately, unless the City has a major incident, the department may not be able to assemble the required firefighters, during the day to day, to support and sustain large scale emergency incidents. As a result, the department has consistently relied on our mutual aid program, which has improved our interoperability by partnering with our neighboring communities through the use of automatic and mutual aid agreements
As the fire chief, I am proud to say, I have a dedicated and competent staff of executive fire officers. Each of these first responders brings a special talent to the table in terms of their knowledge, skills, and leadership abilities, and I consider them the back bone of the department.
The volunteers who serve as firefighters are highly motivated and they all bring a special talent to the department. The department has first responders who possess trade skills such as construction, welding, electricians, factory workers, paid firefighters, and just skilled laborers in general.
In CY2016, the Tallassee Fire Department’s training program continued to surpass the previous year. In the later part of 2014 the department began utilizing the Alabama Fire College’s online firefighter certification courses. This new technology continues to allow us to graduate and certify new members annually.
This is a benefit to the Tallassee Fire Department because first responders can now receive course certifications that will enhance their core competencies and provide professional development without spending 2 -3 nights a week in a classroom instead of spending time at home with families. The course is a total of 200 hours for one candidate to complete, so we hope to prevent a member from getting burnout while attending training, thus leaving the member motivated to attend calls for service.
In CY2016, Tallassee Fire Department first responders logged a total of 3,145 training hours. Not only did the department’s first responders exceed the ISO annual training requirements, but they also completed several Alabama Fire College Certification courses. These courses improved the department’s apparatus driver/operator, rescue, and firefighting capabilities. It also increased the amount of certified firefighter’s who are assigned to the department.
Our training program is part of the Alabama Fire College’s regional training program, which allows us to offer a wide variety of courses. This means our department’s training program not only trains and certifies members of our department, but it also trains and certifies first responders from all over the country who come to our facility to attend training. We are currently working with the Alabama Fire College’s program manager for Airport Rescue Firefighter to become one of the training sites for this highly sought after certification.
We are working with our local aerospace manufacturing facility to acquire the needed props for this endeavor to be approved. This would help the AFC meet their training demands, as well as create a revenue stream to help maintain our facilities and training programs.
Pictures above are firefighters from Tallassee and surrounding departments participating in rope rescue, vehicle rescue, and life fire training, all conducted at our local training facility.
Tallassee Fire Department operations consist of responding to calls for service, providing fire code compliance inspections, and teaching public fire prevention education to our schools and civic organizations.
Because the department is primarily operated by using a paid-per-call system, the department has struggled during the normal work day hours M - F with getting enough members to safely and sufficiently answer our customers’ needs. We also struggle to meet the National Fire Protection Association 1710 Standard for the Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments 2-in; 2-out protocols. The struggle to maintain minimum staffing levels during this period has resulted in delayed responses which has caused fire to escalate beyond the incipient stage.
Collecting run-data plays a major role in determining staffing and apparatus needs, in analyzing trends in the types of fires we see, and in providing a way to identify training needs for specific types of events. Collecting this data is also a requirement of National Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) in order for our department to qualify for any type of grant funding from the federal government.
As noted earlier in this report, you can easily see why chief officers have stressed the importance of our daytime crew as the department continues to receive the most calls during the normal working hours in correlation with the least amount of personnel able to respond. The daytime personnel are included in the numbers below, and the chart only reflects that of the Tallassee Fire Department.
In the early days, the fire department’s mission was to respond only to fires of all types and to car accidents requiring extrication. In 2004, the fire department’s mission increased to any incident involving fire, motor vehicle accidents, hazardous material incidents, water rescue/recovery, technical rescues, and emergency medical service assistance calls to the local ambulance service during times of high call volume, as well as our response to mutual aid calls.
Since 9/11, our nation has come to expect that when they dial 911 for anything other than a crime, the fire department is going to show up to provide the highest level of service for whatever emergency they have reported. This does however increase the department’s burden for the first responders to maintain their basic firefighter skills while also maintaining the specialized skills needed for the department’s increase mission.
In CY 2016, the department responded to 194 calls for service. The most notable incident was the Mount Vernon Mill Fire. This fire went to a 3rd Alarm response, along with a lot of specially called units from departments outside of our pre-established alarm list. A total of 15 Fire Departments, both county Emergency Management Agencies, Tallassee Police Department, State Fire Marshal’s Office, and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms responded to play a role in this event. A total of 114 firefighters were accounted for in the 16-hour operation.
The Mount Vernon Mill Fire, 05 May 2016 is one, if not the largest, fire loss recorded in Tallassee’s history. Many citizens consider this a terrible loss. However, from a fire department operational perspective, I consider this incident a complete success. Training, pre-planning, and mutual-aid partnerships caused this fire to go precisely as planned. The ultimate goal of our strategy was to protect and maintain operations of the City of Tallassee Filter Plant located just hundreds of feet adjacent to the fire building. Over 900,000 gallons of water was used over a 3-day period to completely extinguish this fire. Although, the mill was a total loss, firefighters saved an estimated amount of $25M that would be needed to replace a water filter plant, not to mention the other communities served by it. A dollar mount cannot be placed on the economic impact to the city as water being a primary source of revenue.
Fire Prevention education is a valuable function of the fire department, and it is a service we are proud to offer. This is especially important when it comes to getting in front of an audience and educating our kids. Daytime members provide fire truck displays to local churches and day cares to conduct fire prevention activities. These visits to our local day cares also provide an opportunity to offer the owner an annual fire inspection and to capture any changes to the current Pre-Fire Plan on file. I am pleased to say we have introduced a new program to our citizens that is known as the “Smoke Detector Program”. Through the funding of a local donor who pays for the smoke detectors, homeowners or senior citizens who cannot afford smoke detectors may request up to (2) per household that are installed at no charge by our daytime members.
Fire Investigations are also important functions conducted by members of the department. 6 members of our department are certified as fire investigators and are routinely tasked at fire scenes to conduct cause and origin investigations. Our members are a valuable resource to the Tallassee Police Department investigators when a fire is believed to be incendiary or is considered to be arson. On 06 Jan 2016, a structure fire on Lilly Avenue was suspected to be an arson fire. Because of a combination of experience by fire officers on scene recognizing the signs and protecting evidence, along with members who conducted a thorough fire scene examination through photographs and evidence collection, the incident resulted in the arrest and conviction of a juvenile and an adult who were responsible for the incident.
|Teaching fire prevention education
Fire Prevention and inspections go hand-in-hand when it comes to educating our first responders and the public. In 2014, in order to meet the ISO requirements on our upcoming evaluation, our first responders began updating and conducting pre-fire plan inspections. These inspections not only provided valuable information to the incident commander during a structure response incident, but it also provided life safety of the occupants. The department’s daytime staff completed (73) inspections which accounted for more than 130 man hours. The reports which were generated allowed the department’s first responders the opportunity to meet requirements which will in turn earn the department points in this category during our next ISO evaluation.
The Tallassee Fire Department operates out 3 fire stations and operates one 6 acres training facility.
FIRE STATION 1 – is located at 123 North Ann Avenue and is the department’s primary fire station. Fire station 1 supports our first run apparatus, administrative offices, and living facilities.
FIRE STATION 2 – is located on our east side and is at 118 Washington Street. Fire station 2 supports one first run apparatus and a reserve pumper. This station was built with the intent to have small living quarters and an office area. It is still a goal to complete this renovation with the benefit of having resident members which would decrease response times.
FIRE STATION 3 – is located at 140 Twin Creeks Drive in our North Industrial Park. Fire station 3 supports one first run pumper and the department’s mass casualty response trailer. It was also built with the intent to have living quarters within the infrastructure already in place and is awaiting funding to complete the renovation. This would be a valuable asset by having resident members for increased response times as well as provide students a potential place to room.
FD Training Center / Classroom – located at 144 Twin Creeks Drive across the street from Station 3. This 6-acre complex has a state of the art meeting facility, a 5 story burn building/drill tower, a 2-story ventilation training prop, vehicle extrication section, flammable liquids pit, vehicle live-fire prop, and a confined space training maze.
The Fire Department currently maintains a fleet of 10 pieces of equipment ranging from fire apparatus, support trailers, boats, and trailers, all of which serve a particular function necessary to complete a specific department core mission. Visitors, citizens, and even members of the media are always surprised at our fleet compared to the department’s size and type. This is made possible primarily from funding received from the Elmore County Fire Fee collected annually by the Elmore County Revenue Commissioners Office and by tradition used to pay for apparatus.
The Current fleet consists of the following apparatus: (4) Front Line Pumpers, (1) Reserve Pumper, (1) 78’ Quint (Ladder Truck), (1) Brush Truck, (1) Mass Casualty Response Trailer, (1) Staff Truck, (1) Chief’s Truck.
As the fire chief, I continuously assessed the department’s performance to maximize budgetary funding allocations. I have identified several issues that will need to be addressed in 2017 in order for the department to meet our future goals. These areas include the following priorities.
- Station maintenance/renovation projects that would fall in the capital outlay categories.
- Complete the living facilities for fire station #3.
- Draft future plans for replacing or upgrading fire station #2.
- Maintaining our day time staffing levels to provide an efficient and safe response.
In closing, I remind everyone that our members are our biggest asset. I will continue to capitalize on every opportunity for recruitment of and retention of new and existing members. According to a cost savings study completed by the National Volunteer Fire Council using our department’s data, it is stated that “the members of your fire department save the City of Tallassee $572,386.00 annually.” To maintain these results, I will ask for your partnership in meeting the needs of our department when it comes to the quality of life of our members, the safety of our members, and the protection of the citizens of our great city.