The Turlock Fire Department’s annual report was recently released and reflects a steady climb in calls for service, as the department continues to pursue new avenues that will help in its overall mission to protect people and property in a growing community.
In 2017, the fire department responded to 6,793 emergency calls, which is just slightly above the 6,745 calls responded to the previous year. The majority of the calls — at 3,974 — were for emergency medical services. Responded to motor vehicle accidents accounted for 332 calls. Extractions and rescues and other medical calls accounted for 37 calls.
The fire department had 248 calls to respond to some sort of fire — 70 structure fires; 42 vehicle fires; 50 vegetation fires; and 86 other type of fire calls.
For medical and fire emergencies quick responses are key to mitigating the damage and/or saving lives. The Turlock Fire Department had an average response time of four minutes and 53 seconds in 2017, which is below the national average.
“Turlock has seen a dramatic increase in call volume in the past several years,” the fire department stated in their annual report. “Along with more calls for service the department has also encountered more complex and challenging emergencies. These can be attributed to new EMS protocols, newer and lighter vehicles, which when are involved in collisions result in more complex extrications, and more industrial areas which present a larger threat for hazardous materials releases.”
In addition to maintaining a quick response time, the fire department has begun new practices that are aimed at keeping people and property safe. Now, the department sends all four engines out to a report of a working structure fire upon initial dispatch, and will call them off if not needed, as opposed to sending more engines out as the fire grows.
The fire department also is sending out two engines for suspected CPR calls and is using the “Pit Crew CPR” practice. This practice operates by having one first responder performs compressions on the right side of the chest for one minute, then another first responder gives compressions on the left side of the chest. A third person makes sure the airway is not restricted and straps on an oxygen mask if needed. The practice has been implemented at numerous hospitals and has shown greater successful outcomes with sudden cardiac arrest patients.
In 2017, the Turlock Fire Department responded to 54 hazardous materials calls, which ranged from small natural gas ruptures to more complex calls involving ammonia leaks. Every firefighter in the department is trained to be a hazardous material first responder and now eight have reached the level of elite, which is the highest number the department has ever had. The specialist training came at no cost to the department because it hosted a Hazmat Specialist class in 2017.
The fire department’s engine from the California Office of Emergency Services was dispatched to 10 different emergencies. “Fire crews were assigned to various activities including; structure protections, hand line construction, road construction, spotting for aircraft, and mop up activities,” according to the fire department’s annual report.
The previous year saw the addition of Squad 32 to the department’s fleet. Squad 32 has some custom features that allows it to respond to special assignments, including confined spaces rescues, trench rescues, high and low angle rope rescues, and vehicle extractions. Over the course of the year Squad 32 was called into action 16 times for specialized operations.
“Squad training and equipment was at the forefront of the departments operational goals for 2017,” the annual report stated. “Specialized equipment for rescue, extrication, and confined space have been purchased and added to the cache on the Squad. In addition, several specialized training sessions have been conducted to better prepare personnel assigned to the Squad. Squad 32 will continue to be a vital resource in upcoming years and will most certainly continue to save lives.”
Training was a key focus for the fire department in 2017, with a restructuring of the training grounds, along with some new additions that are designed to improve firefighting techniques. The Live Fire Training Structure utilizes eight cargo containers that the fire department will be able to use for a variety of fire and rescue scenarios at their drill grounds on Walnut Road. Inside the structure the fire department can simulate multiple fire and rescue incidents, including multiple-story efforts. Those using the facility can experience the flames and thick smoke, while practicing how to move safely and effectively and learning how to vent the fires and the behavior of the flames. Planning and design work is being done for a five to six story training tower and confined space rescue prop that would join the other structures at the training ground.
The past year also saw the fire department sign a memorandum of understanding with Modesto Junior College that will see the fire department host a series of classes and serve as a satellite campus for the college to be used by those pursuing degrees in fire service.