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Salem Fire Department EMS runs climb again

SALEM — Emergency medical calls once again dominated the numbers for the Salem Fire Department, increasing by 17 percent from 1,238 in 2018 to 1,458 last year.

The increase in medicals also led to an increase in total incidents from 2,022 in 2018 to 2,209 in 2019, for a total increase of 9.25 percent for overall activity by the department.

“We’re running more and more EMS every year,” Salem Fire Chief Scott Mason said.

Every time there’s a medical call in the city, the fire department responds and many times beats the ambulance, with firefighters trained to render medical aid, including life-saving measures. The department, however, cannot transport. The crew responds in an engine, that way if there’s a call for a fire, they can respond directly instead of having to drive back to the station.

Mason said Salem has an aging population and that’s why the medical calls keep going up. He said he can’t really attribute it to the opiate overdose calls because that’s a small percentage of their medicals.

During this year of the corona virus pandemic, Mason said the job is even more serious than normal and more risky due to the exposure during medical calls to people who may be ill.

“I would ask people to maintain their social distancing,” he said.

The fire station is currently closed to the public. He offered thanks to the Hannah E. Mullins School of Practical Nursing for a recent donation of 400 masks to the fire department for use with patients and also hand sanitizer.

“The sooner we can beat this virus, the sooner we can get back to normal,” he said.

Structure fires in 2019 were down quite a bit, from 17 in 2018 to 12 in 2019. Overall fires stayed about the same, only decreasing by 1, with 43 last year and 44 the year before. Motor vehicle accidents decreased from 70 to 52 and motor vehicles vs. pedestrians stayed at six.

“Everything else was pretty much status quo,” Mason said.

The other numbers included: hazardous materials/conditions, 158 in 2019, down from 159 in 2018; service calls, up to 357 in 2019 from 349 in 2018; good intent calls, decreased with 79 in 2019 and 85 in 2018; false alarms, dropped to 108 in 2019 from 132 in 2018; and severe weather/citizen complaints dropped to six in 2019 from 15 in 2018.

Mason explained that service calls involve anything from assisting police with a lockout to investigating a smoke or odor call. Good intent deals with calls where nothing is found, such as a smoke call that turns out to be steam from a dryer.

The average response time was a little slower last year than the year before, from 3.86 minutes in 2018 to 4.01 minutes in 2019. He said the average may have been affected by the one house fire where they were caught by a train and there’s also a paperwork situation that can throw off the numbers.

Training hours increased from 2,108 hours in 2018 to 2,396 hours in 2019. Mason said the department tries to do monthly training for firefighting techniques and also trains with University Hospitals for EMS monthly.

Inspections and re-inspections of commercial buildings increased in 2019 to 344 from 273 in 2018. He said it could be because they were fully staffed with inspectors, but he said the numbers still aren’t where he wants them to be. He said the department needs a full-time inspector who isn’t going on calls like all the inspectors do now.

There was a big increase in the number of classes/tours offered last year with 31 that included 1,323 people. The year before the number of classes/tours was 18 with 808 people. He said they had more requests from schools and organizations and also more fire extinguisher classes with businesses, which is something the department offers. The businesses just have to supply the extinguishers.

Grants increased a lot, going from $6,084 in 2018 to $63,718 last year. Mason attributed the increase to a $52,518 grant from the Salem Community Foundation for new digital radios. Other grants included $1,200 from Ohio EMS for EMS training and equipment and $10,000 from the State Fire Marshal for four sets of turnout gear, which includes the coat and pants.

“The Salem Fire Department had a successful year proudly serving the community and we’ll keep doing our best to serve the community,” Mason said.

The firefighters’ union still offers smoke detectors to those in need in the community. Call 330-337-6183 or 330-337-3053 for information.

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