Call load steady, work continues for St. Anthony Fire Department


Mark Sitarz

The St. Anthony Fire Department saw around 1,500 calls for service and made some personnel changes in 2018, which was reported as part of the agency’s annual summary.

Fire Chief Mark Sitarz gave the report to the St. Anthony City Council on March 12.

St. Anthony firefighters were called into service 1,521 times last year, and nearly three quarters of those calls were for medical reasons. The average patient assisted by the department is 73 years old.

While total calls haven’t risen much in the last five years, Sitarz said he often compares the figure to 2001, when he started working in the city.

“At that time, we had two folks on a shift, and we did 901 calls,” he said. “In 2018, we still have two on a shift, and we did 1,521.”

The department had 16 fire calls, which is down from as many as 40 in 2012. Monetary losses related to fires fluctuate alongside the number of calls, and in 2018 that amount was $67,000, according to the report.

The average response time for all calls was two minutes and 42 seconds.

“I can tell you that response time is — I hit this home every year — is so critical when it comes to someone having a cardiac event, or that apartment fire that we had,” Sitarz said.

The report cited state information that said that the biggest cause of fires is cooking equipment, and the most damage in St. Anthony in 2018 came from an apartment kitchen fire that caused $52,500 in damage.

St. Anthony Fire Department staff logged more than 3,000 hours of training and 327 hours of public outreach and education over the year, the report said. They conducted 210 building inspections as well, which Sitarz said is also a training opportunity, of sorts. Crew members learn about the different buildings in town and how a fire might be fought in them.

“I’ll use City Hall as an example,” he said. “When they come through and they do a preplan here, we know where the electrical panels are. We know where there’s high hazard. We know where there are concerns.”

Staff changes during the year included the retirement of Assistant Chief Jay Olson, who was with the department for 41 years. Chris Fuller was promoted to take over as assistant chief.

In all, the department has a force of 28 firefighters, seven of whom are full time. The rest are paid, on-call crew members, and firefighting for St. Anthony isn’t their main job.

“These folks are paid on-call, we just couldn’t do it without them,” Sitarz said. “They are wonderful people. Folks need to remember that this is not their full-time job.”

 

—Matt Hudson

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