Last year, Beatrice Fire and Rescue saw a record number of calls for service.
Responding to 2,782 emergency calls in 2017 alone, Fire and Rescue's last record was set back in 2009, with 2,768 calls for service. This is a far cry from the first full year of ambulance service in 1995, which had a total of 1,733 calls. In case anyone was wondering, Fire and Rescue is still responding with the same number of team members today, with 21 line firefighters.
One topic that has been discussed quite a bit recently is the possibility of a new fire station. From 1909 to 1965, we were located at Fifth and Market streets. In 1965, we moved into the basement of the City Auditorium as a temporary location, but 53 years later, we are still there.
A couple of years ago, we found a copy of the remodel blueprints to convert the basement of the City Auditorium into the fire station. In the blueprints, the apparatus bay (the garage) was designed to hold five fire apparatuses.
Today, inside the station, we have five ambulances, two fire engines, one ladder truck, one rescue/extrication truck, one hazardous materials truck, one chase car and an air trailer. In addition, Beatrice Rural Fire District houses one pumper, one grass rig and one tanker inside the station. This is a total of 14 vehicles for an area that was originally designed to one house five.
Needless to say, getting around the apparatus bay is tight, and thanks to our very professional drivers, we have had minimal accidents inside of the apparatus bay itself.
One of our biggest challenges with so many vehicles in the apparatus bay is vehicle placement. The vehicles that respond the most often are placed in locations for easy access, close to the building's exit. This includes two ambulances, the chase car and a fire engine.
The rest of the vehicles are stacked two-deep and off set from the garage doors. So, for instance, when we respond to a hazardous materials call, (we had 62 of these calls in 2017), we must move four other vehicles before the hazardous materials truck can be deployed.
While this is our most extreme example, the need for any vehicle that is not first out requires us to move one or two additional vehicle in order to respond. This is not a great way for us to respond quickly to your calls for help. All of this has an adverse effect on our turnout time, which is the time it takes to be dispatched, then travel to the response vehicle, put on our gear and respond.
Another challenge Fire and Rescue faces currently, and will continue to face in the future is that vehicles are not getting smaller. We used to be able to get ambulances on a van chassis, which shrunk the length down. However, they stopped making van chassis that burn diesel, so we have had to switch to ambulances with a pickup chassis. This has increased the length of the ambulances, which has made it more difficult to continue to fit our vehicles in the apparatus bay.
These are challenges that could be solved with a new fire station, which in turn would provide the public with better service. A new fire station would have a larger apparatus bay, so vehicles would not be stacked three or four-deep. With a quicker turnout time, we will be able to respond to emergencies faster and more efficiently, to help you in your time of need.