Tracking a decade of fire department calls

The above chart shows the different types of calls the Richfield Fire Department has responded to during the past decade. Blue represents responses in Richfield City, while red represents those in Sevier County. The volunteer department averages approximately 100 calls each year.

The Richfield City Fire Department responded to 1,005 calls in the past decade, according to a report compiled by Brion Terry, the department’s second lieutenant. 

When people think of a fire department, they often think of homes and other structures being saved from burning down, but as it turns out structure fires are only a small part of what the department responds to.

“That doesn’t mean the department isn’t still working hard,” Terry said. The department, which is manned by volunteers, saw demand for its services grow in 2019, as the number of calls grew to 135. Much of that growth is due to requirements that fire prevention activities be reported, such as giving presentations to schools and community groups. 

Some 16.5 percent of the department’s calls in 2019 were for fire prevention. Another 12.2 percent of the calls in 2019 were for false alarms. 

“Anything where we responded and we didn’t need to is in that category,” Terry said. Fire alarms that go off are a big driver of false alarms, according to Terry. 

Over the past decade, the fire department has been dispatched to 134 false alarms or incidents for which the response was cancelled in the city, and another 31 in Sevier County. 

Richfield’s department, along with Salina and Monroe, contract with the county for fire protection. 

One thing that is not accounted for in the report are the weekly trainings. Department members are required to attend trainings each week, with other trainings hosted on weekends, covering everything from basic firefighting to how to contain a hazardous material incident. All of the training hours are volunteer-based.

“Of all the things the department saves, money is one of the biggest,” Terry said. Richfield’s department has been able to secure the best possible insurance rating for a community without a full-time department, which saves residents on their homeowner’s insurance, Terry said. 

While the roster of 25 firefighters is currently full, Terry said the department is always looking for more volunteers. 

“We need good people who have a commitment to their community,” Terry said. “If you’ve ever been interested in being a firefighter, you should start talking to one of us.”

Another 10.1 percent of the calls the fire department was dispatched to in the past year were for carbon monoxide alarms, although those don’t generally require the entire department to respond.

“A lot of times they’ll call the chief and he’ll run down and test the levels,” Terry said. 

Some 2.2 percent of the incidents the fire department responded to were for structure fires — two in Richfield and one in the county. However, one of the fires proved to be one of the largest in the city’s history with the Dogberry fire, which consumed a large portion of a Richfield-based business in October 2019.

During the past decade, the department has responded to 15 structure fires in Richfield and 18 in Sevier County. A structure fire is anything that causes damage to more than just the contents of a building, Terry said. There have been 33 room and contents fires in Richfield in the past decade, and nine in the county, that the department has responded to. While structural damage may not have occurred, these fires can still have a big cost.

“Anytime there is smoke damage, it can cause a lot of loss,” Terry said.

Fires in sheds and outbuildings have their own classification, with 10 in Richfield during the past decade and 23 in the county.

The department also supports other agencies. The fire department is called anytime there is a need for someone to be extricated from a vehicle crash, which has required the Richfield department’s response 59 times in the past 10 years. Vehicle fires also accounted for 64 responses for the Richfield department during the same time frame.

Wildland fires are another area where the fire department spends time. Over the past decade the department has responded 77 times in total to wildland fires — and even has a dedicated brush truck to do so. 

In 2019, wildland fires accounted for 10 percent of the department’s responses.

“The state is required to protect life and property from wildfires,” Terry said. This often results in local departments responding on the initial attack of wildfires.

Local departments will respond alongside crews from the Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service — a strategy that has helped 90 percent of wildfires in the state being limited to 10 acres or less. 

Working with other agencies and other fire departments can also be a tremendous asset, Terry said. 

“We have some really good partnerships,” Terry said. “The support departments give each other has really improved.”

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