For the third year in a row, the Alice Fire Department broke its own record for the number of calls received during a 12-month period, fire officials said.
At 1,128 calls reported, this is also the second year in a row that the fire department has had more than 1,000 calls within a one-year period.
In 2007, the department handled 1,017 calls, and for the first time in the department’s history, passed the 1,000-call mark. That year, the department estimated $1,115,450 worth of loss in property across the department’s service area for 2007.
In 2008, the department handled 1,128 calls, with $1,658,791 worth of estimated loss for the year. During the year, the department handled 403 incidents involving fire, which accounts for 35.72 percent of the total incident traffic for the year.
Along with fire related calls, the 30-person department handled two overpressure/explosion, overheating (no fire) incidences, 32 rescue & emergency medical service incidences, 364 hazardous condition (no fire) incidences, 36 service calls, 171 good intent calls, 89 false alarms and false calls and four special incidences.
Alice Fire Chief Dean Van Nest said that with the reporting numbers available, the department is able to track the type of incidences and how often they respond to those types.
“With this information available, it will help us determine our future resource needs,” Van Nest said. “By keeping these statistics, we can mark trends in certain incidences, such as kitchen fires or smoking related fires, and then create public service campaigns focused on those issues.”
The system also monitors which locations are affected by certain incidences. The statistical information complied can be broken down into 11 different zones across the city, and into four separate areas across the county. The department can also monitor mutual aid incidents they report to, along side neighboring departments in Orange Grove, Premont, San Diego and Sandia.
That help across departmental and municipal lines occurred often in 2008. Van Nest said incidences such as the 285 fires, which consumed 14,000 acres is an example of the joint efforts, with more than 29 response agencies involved. Last spring’s Ben Bolt fire, which threatened to consume the city, was another time where multiple agency efforts paid off.
“That one was as bad as this area has seen in a long time,” Van Nest said. He also pointed to the Bar Iron fire, which by working together the departments were able to contain with no serious injuries.
Within the city of Alice, the largest number of incident calls came from the northern part of town with 445 calls. The southern part of Alice had 226 incident calls this year. For the purposes of statistical information collection, the city is divided geographically by the railroad tracks that run through the center of town. Countywide, Jim Wells is divided by Highway 44 and Highway 281, creating four quadrants. The southwest section of the county saw the most number of incident calls by the fire department, with 168 calls for 2008. Outside of the county, Duval County had the largest number of incidences reported to the fire department, with 24 for the year. Van Nest said the cooperation between local departments is essential for the protection of all area residents.
“All of the chief’s have gotten together and come up with plans to work together and be more cooperative. Over the years we’ve grown closer together, and the pay off for the city is in the form of mutual aid,” Van Nest said. “When we need the help, they’re there to help us.”