As temperatures rise, so do calls to SFD

Glaser says variety of reasons for department’s increased activity

By ERIK SANDIN – Stillwater Gazette

You could say Stillwater Fire Department personnel are earning their pay in recent months.

Fire Chief Stu Glaser told the City Council at their meeting Tuesday that the department has seen a rise in the number of calls handled in the last few months and he expects the trend to continue as summer begins.

"We’re extremely busy," he said, adding that the SFD has responded to 137 calls in June, only 13 fewer calls than the 150 in May.

For the year, Glaser said firefighters and EMTs have reported to 747 calls, 104 more calls than the 643 calls during the same period last year.

Glaser told council members there is no one reason why calls to the department are up this year. But he said warm weather and recent thunderstorms are two factors, noting that calls for medical issues, natural gas leaks and downed power lines are up this year compared to 2011.

Storms about a week ago resulted in numerous calls, including a pole barn fire in Stillwater Township that was started by a lightning strike, Glaser said. Thunderstorms Tuesday morning also resulted in calls to the department, the chief said, and he expected more calls Tuesday night if forecasted severe weather developed.

"We know what’s going to happen tonight," he told council members. "It’s supposed to get bad around nine or ten o’clock."

Although severe weather did not occur in Stillwater late Tuesday and Wednesday, Glaser said this spring has seen more active weather compared to last year.

"It didn’t seem like we had a lot of storms last spring," he said.

Another issue SFD personnel face are overlapping calls, when crews are sent to one incident and while there, receive another call, according to Glaser.

"What we’re starting to see is overlapping calls. What that tells the guys is we’re getting busy," Glaser said.

Another possible reason for increased calls to the SFD is that both the fire department and Stillwater Police Department respond to suicide calls, Glaser said. He and Police Chief John Gannaway said police officers are sent on suicide calls to secure the scene before EMTs can enter and treat a distraught person.

"We send the appropriate resources to a call when it comes in," Glaser said.

Finally, Glaser said the department has used its new fire boat several times since the craft was unveiled last month. The chief said the boat was dispatched to Hudson, Wis., Monday to aid in the search for a Lake Elmo teenager who drowned in the St. Croix River.

"The boat has been put into service three times since we first put in the water," he said. "It’s getting used."