Evanston fire department receives record-breaking number of calls in 2011

Marshall Cohen

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The Evanston fire department responded to 9,063 calls in 2011 – the second-highest call volume in the department’s history, according to an annual report released Thursday.

There were no fire-related deaths in 2011, and the average response time for emergency calls was 2:59, more than a minute below the standard set by the National Fire Protection Administration.

“I’m proud of the performance of our firefighters and paramedics and our entire department,” Fire Chief Greg Klaiber told The Daily on Thursday. “These professional men and women respond on a daily basis, and they do whatever is called upon for them to do, and they do a great job.”

The department responded to 157 fires that caused $3,275,058 worth of damage last year, according to the report. Firefighters managed to save 94 percent of the properties involved in structure fires – amounting to more than $57.1 million in saved property.

“When you respond to a fire, a lot of people ask about the damage,” Klaiber said. “Everybody wants to put a damage estimate on the fire in terms of a dollar amount. We look at that but we also look at the amount of property that is saved.”

About 60 percent of all calls were for Emergency Medical Services, according to the report. The department received an average of 25 calls every day.

Klaiber said the massive February 2011 blizzard and a string of major summer storms caused the record-breaking numbers. He also said Evanston’s growing population leads to more fire and EMS calls.

“It’s not really a town anymore – it’s a small city,” Klaiber said. “We have constant action, people in and out of town all day long, even into the night. There are more people in downtown Evanston and that has a lot to do with it.”

Other highlights of 2011 included a $253,000 donation from Northwestern that helped the department purchase a new ambulance.

In an interview with The Daily on Wednesday, retired Battalion Chief Don Kunita thanked University President Morton Schapiro for his commitment to public safety.

“He saw to it that the University made efforts to help our fire service fleet – it’s always aging and needs equipment and updating,” Kunita said. “I’m glad the cooperation is there between the University and the city because that is really important.”

Also, a new aerial ladder truck went into service in 2001, according to the report. The new truck, which replaced a 21-year-old truck, was secured by grant funds and cooperation with the city’s fleet management.

The Evanston fire department also launched the File of L.I.F.E. program last year. The program encouraged residents to store information packets with critical emergency medical information in their freezers for first-responders to use.

The department also mandated wellness and fitness programs for all 110 members in order to reduce on-the-job injuries and address risk management issues.

The past year was productive and the fire department accomplished many of its goals, Klaiber said.

“It was an excellent year,” Klaiber said. “I couldn’t be more pleased or proud with how we handled 2011 and how we responded to the needs and demands of our community.”