Area residents are well aware that the La Porte City Fire Rescue and Ambulance departments consist of a number of dedicated volunteers. What they may not know is that those volunteers logged a total of 3,236 hours in 2017 responding to service calls in La Porte City and the surrounding townships. Of those hours, nearly half (1,489) were invested in the 80 calls for Fire and Rescue Department service. The remainder were logged by the Ambulance Department, which responded to 289 calls for service last year.
In his annual report to the City Council, Fire Chief Jeffrey McFarland noted, “Keep in mind the amount of hours doesn’t include training hours suggested by the state for both fire personnel and EMS personnel.” As of January 1, 2018, the Fire Rescue Department consisted of 29 members, 20 of them active, with the remainder probationary. The department has a total of eight Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), three Advanced EMTs and one EMT-Paramedic on the roster.
“Currently our EMS personnel are signing up for 6 hour shifts about 12-14 times a month, depending on personnel availability. Our goal is to continually add EMS personnel to minimize the time each person has to sign up. Although EMS is a priority, LPCFR will screen applicants who are interested in a firefighter position as well.
“Daytime responses to fire incidents continues to be an issue, as LPCFR relies heavily on mutual aid departments for manpower and equipment. With the work force today primarily working the day shift, it puts a huge burden on small communities and their EMS and Fire Departments to have the adequate response needed. LPCFR has done a great job this past year responding to both our emergencies and providing assistance to our mutual aid departments,” McFarland noted in his report.
Last year, the department continued the important work of identifying outdated/unsafe equipment so it can be replaced in a timely fashion. Two areas of concern are the Firefighter Bunker Gear and Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA). Both the bunker gear and SCBA were purchased in 2007. According to the manufacturer’s recommendation, bunker gear has around a ten year lifespan; the harness and polycarbonate tanks on the SCBA are typically good for 15 years. McFarland expects repairs to the SCBA seals in both the bottles and harness valves to continue to be an issue as these components continue to age.
In 2018, the Fire Department expects to take delivery on a new tanker truck to replace the 1990 GMC tanker it currently uses. Construction of the new truck is expected to commence in May. The City expects to take delivery of the new truck in October.
Several milestones were reached by department personnel in 2017. Most notable were the fifty years of service completed by Jim Bagenstos. Dennis and Debra Grimm retired from the department last year after completing 41 and 40 years of service, respectively. Sam Weich, Hayle Davison, Jeff Hutton and Matt Pennell were recognized for completing five years of service.
Special recognition was also given to Troy Brown, the 2017 Firefighter of the Year and Jim Bagenstos, the 2017 EMS Person of the Year.
McFarland concluded his report with words of praise for the community and the members of the department.
“We can’t thank the residents and businesses of our response territory for supporting LPCFR throughout the year with generous donations to help improve our services and equipment. It only makes us better. The support from the City of La Porte City and the townships is always great and they are always there when we need them. And most importantly, to the members of the department, it’s been a tough, hard-fought year, but we met the challenges and, most importantly, we all came home safe.”