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New Conway fire chief discusses plans for the future

Posted: February 13, 2014 - 7:21pm

On his second day as Conway fire chief, Mike Winter talked to the Log Cabin about what the city can expect from the Conway Fire Department in the next few years.

There will be internal changes, Winter said, but the public should see more efforts at education and recruiting.

“Nineteen years ago we had over 100 applicants — more like 150 when I took the test — but this last test we had 57,” Winter said. That’s terrible. That’s completely unacceptable, and we can start fixing that by promoting the fire department and being actively involved in the community.

“My idea is that the fire service, in any city, is a cornerstone of the community and a safe haven for the citizens, but right now almost the only time people really get involved with us is when they call 911. I’m planning to do more educating the public on what they have right here, and I would love to couple with the [city] police department, because we’re all civil servants, as partners with recruitment efforts.

Winter said he was also considering some sort of fire department event similar to the police “national night out.”

He’s also working on an interesting logistical problem: The majority of the department’s calls are for non-life-threatening medical emergencies, and about 33 percent of the time a station’s two trucks will be out on call simultaneously. The current policy is to send two or three firefighters in a $500,000 fire truck to these less-critical medical calls. Winter said that these runs could be made in a pickup truck, reducing fleet costs, but if these firefighters have to respond to something on fire they would have to go back to the station and swap the pickup for their fire truck, which isn’t ideal.

In Europe, some fire departments are trying out a theory of sending a single firefighter on a motorcycle to non-life-threatening medical emergencies, which he said was something to think about.

He also said that he’d like to start working with a local college to start a degree program in emergency management/fire services taught in part by fire department personnel.

Winter is taking over as the department’s top administrator in a year when there’s not any general fund money budgeted for things like major equipment replacement, but he says the department is well-positioned for the upcoming year.

The department’s bomb squad doesn’t have any general fund money allocated to it, but it did get about $500,000 in federal grants over the past two years and Winter said they’ve applied for another.

The bomb squad now has two bomb investigation and disposal robots, and opened up bids for a second truck to carry the new robot.

Since the bomb squad covers “about a quarter of the state,” Winter said, there have been times when they’ve needed to be in two places at once.

The fire department also has the ability to buy new heavy trucks using money from a bonded 1/8-cent sales tax, and Winter said that a new ladder truck and engine should be delivered in June.

(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached by email at joe.lamb@thecabin.net or by phone at 505-1277. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)

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Citizen of Conway
159
Points
Citizen of Conway 02/14/14 - 11:30 am
3
0
Questions

I think Chief Winters was a great choice. I don't pretend to have the answers because I don't have all the inside knowledge but here are a few areas that should be addressed by our new Fire Chief.

1. It had been my understanding that Fire Trucks were dispatched to accidents because they can frequently arrive before an ambulance and seconds can mean a difference in life or death. Very often, we have all driven by an accident scene where the biggest hazard was a fire truck still blocking the road long after an ambulance has arrived. Many times, the ambulance is already gone. If dispatched, it seems that they should leave as soon as any potential patient is handed over to the amublance personnel.

2. Looking at the rank structure of the Fire Department it appears there are many more chief's than Indians which inflates the pay structure.

3. Why does our Bomb Squad cover a quarter of the State and who pays for that cost when they are outside the city?

4. I have seen the police cars that are auctioned and by the time they reached that point they are pretty much done for emergency service. I have also seen Fire Trucks that appeared fully functional replaced by new $500,000 rigs amd the old truck was eventually put into service by another fire department. If it is good enough for another department, why is it not good enough for Conway. From a layman's view point, it seems that we will spend half a million on a new truck instead of putting $50,000 into repairs.

Again, there may be logical answers to these questions but they deserve a close look.

ucantbserious
30265
Points
ucantbserious 02/14/14 - 06:04 pm
2
0
Good questions, Citizen.

I'm not Chief Winter or a member of the CFD but I hope this helps on a few of the items you listed.

1. It had been my understanding that Fire Trucks were dispatched to accidents because they can frequently arrive before an ambulance and seconds can mean a difference in life or death. Very often, we have all driven by an accident scene where the biggest hazard was a fire truck still blocking the road long after an ambulance has arrived. Many times, the ambulance is already gone. If dispatched, it seems that they should leave as soon as any potential patient is handed over to the amubulance personnel.

I don't think car accidents are the main thing they are referencing here. I believe what Chief Winter was referring to were routine medical calls such as general pain, trouble breathing, sick, needing a ride to the hospital, etc. All members of the CFD are at least EMT certified and respond to all medical calls within the city. For a medical call they will typically only need a couple of bags off their rig while carrying everything else to the scene is unneeded. Any time a rig goes out there is wear and tear on it as well as diesel fuel burned. The thought here is that perhaps there is a cheaper and more efficient way to respond to such emergencies.

To your point regarding fire trucks blocking the road on a car accident that is done on purpose and for the safety of the emergency workers there. All too often a car will come barreling through an accident scene and endanger the lives of firefighters, police, ems, tow truck drivers, bystanders, etc. Just look at what happened to CPD Officer McGary. A giant red truck parked at an angle in the lane of traffic acts to shield those personnel and 'fend off' and out of control motorist.

3. Why does our Bomb Squad cover a quarter of the State and who pays for that cost when they are outside the city?

They receive funding from more than just the City of Conway.

4. I have seen the police cars that are auctioned and by the time they reached that point they are pretty much done for emergency service. I have also seen Fire Trucks that appeared fully functional replaced by new $500,000 rigs amd the old truck was eventually put into service by another fire department. If it is good enough for another department, why is it not good enough for Conway. From a layman's view point, it seems that we will spend half a million on a new truck instead of putting $50,000 into repairs.

I'm guessing they went to a smaller department with not as high of a call volume. There does come to a point where the high call volume of Conway begins to weigh heavily on an older apparatus to where it needs to be taken out of service more often.

Citizen of Conway
159
Points
Citizen of Conway 02/15/14 - 10:55 am
0
0
Call Volume

Ucantbeserious,thanks for your input. I am not a member of CFD either. Just a long time resident of Conway. I would like to see the call volume involving actual fires vs all the other areas. Do the Federal Grants CFD gets require responding outside the city for free or do other governmental entities pony up their share when CFD goes to help out. The Fire Trucks are powered by diesel engines that should have extremely high milage potential without major problems. Since the major portion of the runs are to non-fire events (I would guess 80% or more) and the fire fighting equipment is not used, the call volume shouldn't impact that part of the truck.

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