Operations

Alaska City Reconsiders Mutual Aid After Vehicle Catches Fire

March 16, 2018

Photo of the Fairbanks Fire Department Headquarters courtesy of Deputy Fire Marshal Kyle Green
Photo of the Fairbanks Fire Department Headquarters courtesy of Deputy Fire Marshal Kyle Green

Officials at the City of Fairbanks (Alaska) will take a closer look at the mutual aid it offers to local agencies due to a growing demand for assistance. Earlier this week, a fire broke out at Fairbanks Fire Department (FFD) headquarters while crews were out responding to calls. According to the city, emergency calls — both from mutual aid and within the city — are increasing, but staffing has not.

On March 10, the engine compartment of a light-duty SUV caught fire while stationed at a bay in the FFD administrative vehicle maintenance garage. The SUV was part of the reserve fleet, and used as a back-up battalion chief vehicle. At the time of the fire, all personnel except two were out responding to emergency medical calls. The fire station’s sprinkler system was activated, and a single fire sprinkler was able to control the fire until an available engine could respond.

The exact cause of the vehicle fire has not been determined, and direct fire damage was limited to the administrative apparatus bay, though some smoke damage extended into other areas of the building.

Photo of the backup batallion chief SUV courtesy of Deputy Fire Marshal Kyle Green
Photo of the backup batallion chief SUV courtesy of Deputy Fire Marshal Kyle Green

An increase in mutual aid requests, along with an increase in calls within the city, have placed a burden on FFD personnel. Currently, mutual aid requests are immediately dispatched to the nearest mutual aid agency, whether it's high- or low-priority. The Fairbanks Emergency Communication Center is revising its dispatch process, placing lower priority requests in a queue until FFD personnel are available to respond. 

According to a release from the city, the call volume for FFD increased more than 26% between 2014 and 2017, with no correlating increase in staffing. Mutual aid received by the city has increased from 69 emergency medical services (EMS) calls in 2014 to 311 calls in 2017. Mutual aid given by the city has increased from 19 calls in 2014 to 52 calls in 2017. By placing lower priority mutual aid requests in a queue, FFD hopes to better prioritize its calls.

In addition, the mayor plans to introduce a resolution to fund additional personnel.

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