The Fort Smith Fire Department experienced its best year since 2014 for the number of fires and total fire dollar loss in relation to property values, according to its 2017 annual report.
Fire Chief Phil Christensen presented the data to the city’s Board of Directors at a study session on Tuesday (May 22). In his report, Christensen revealed the city lost only 1.6% of values in fire-affected properties.
The total property values responded to in 2017 were $96.923 million, but from that number, only $1.537 million could not be salvaged. In 2014, the department responded to properties valued at $259.525 million and lost $4.054 million, also around 1.6% of the total. Properties in 2014 skewed toward the commercial building side rather than residential. There also were 361 fires compared to 2017’s 332, accounting for the higher dollar amount.
Out of the four-year incident summary, 2015 experienced the highest losses at $3.187 million of $55.802 million in affected property values (5.7%), and 2016 was 3.2% on $2.946 million of $92.556 million affected. For the entire period, the department managed to salvage 97.7% ($11.724 million) of the $504.806 million affected. Christensen said anything below 10% is good with “three to four percent ideal.”
A significant part of being able to salvage fire-affected properties has to do with response times. The city’s fire department has managed to slash theirs to between 3-4 minutes due in part to adding Fire Station No. 11 at Chaffee Crossing on 8900 Massard Road, a $3.1 million facility funded through the voter-approved 2012 sales tax bond and the street sales tax. Prior to it going into operation, responses to calls in the eastern portion of Fort Smith took 7-8 minutes. The station also was a factor in improving the department’s Insurance Service Office (ISO) rating from a Class 2 to a Class 1. While the announcement was made at the end of 2016, it did not take effect until March 1, 2017. The Class 1 ISO rating is “the most elite classification in the country,” Christensen said. The ISO provides statistical information on risk. ISO ratings are calculated on a scale of 10 to 1 with 1 representing the lowest risk.
Other “successes” for 2017, Christensen said, include the department’s training division.
“We have exceeded every state and NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) training requirement for new hires, newly promoted drivers, company officers, and seasoned firefighters,” Christensen said, adding the department is now recognized as the regional Pre-Hospital Trauma Life Support training facility.
It also has obtained the credentials to become a National Registry-Emergency Medical Technician teaching site in a partnership with the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith (UAFS).
“This accomplishment alone will serve the citizens of Fort Smith greatly with additional NR-EMT certified responders to render medical aid, at a fractional cost,” Christensen added.
Other noteworthy achievements for 2017 included business inspections for 369 new licenses, a total of 554 man-hours. Christensen cautioned that just because there were 369 business licenses issued in the year, that doesn’t mean each license will manifest into a functioning business. The department also reached 4,511 adults and 7,190 children with fire safety training and education programs.