It was ‘fire week' at city council meeting
Wednesday was a good day for the Yuma Fire Department at the Yuma City Council meeting, where it received a number of accolades.
The recognition came on the first anniversary of the YFD taking over emergency transport services within the city.
City Administrator Greg Wilkinson also announced that the city's fire department has been upgraded by a leading insurance industry analyst.
And he recognized a longtime firefighter for achieving “Fire Officer” credentialing.
YFD's taking over emergency ambulance services was a learning experience and presented some challenges, noted Wilkinson. But it was accomplished at less cost than anticipated, has improved service and has worked out even better than expected, he said.
The goal for having an emergency unit on scene from the time of dispatch was less than seven minutes in 90 percent of the calls. “We're doing better than that,” he said.
Much of the credit goes to the firemen, he said. “They've done a great job.”
Wilkinson also credited YFD's partners for the smooth transition. Rural/Metro Ambulance, which previously provided all ambulance services in the city, continues to transport patients in non-emergency situations. In addition, Yuma Regional Medical Center undertook some measures that enable ambulance crews to get in and out of the Emergency Department faster.
Fire Chief Jack McArthur said that since implementing emergency transport services, YFD has seen an additional cost of less than $1.5 million. He noted that it's difficult to separate out the actual cost of the service because all firemen have emergency medical training.
The city is running between four and six units, depending on the time of year and demand for service, McArthur said. The teams are led by Rod Reed, Tom Linville, Charlie Smith and Velvet Veghoian.
Based on a recent Public Protection Classification site survey, the city's ISO rating was upgraded from a Class 3 to a Class 2, Wilkinson announced. Only 10 communities in Arizona are rated as Class 2 and about 700 nationwide.
“This analysis and better rating means that we are providing the best fire service in Arizona, bar none,” he said. “All the hard work pays off to make sure that YFD is positioned to get there quickly to save lives, second, to save property and limit damage, and third, it may save homeowners and business owners some money on their fire insurance.”
The rating is issued by ISO Properties Inc., which supplies data and analysis for the property and casualty insurance industry.
The classification upgrade follows a survey and analysis conducted by Insurance Service Organization of the city's structural fire suppression delivery system that measured the system's promptness and effectiveness – not only by firefighters but also the water utility, dispatch and information technology systems that support them.
“I am proud of the department and grateful for the support of the public, the mayor, the council and city administration,” said McArthur. “Our firefighters improved our score by increasing training hours. Our mechanics maintained our equipment consistent with ISO standards. Our administrative staff kept the records needed to prove our compliance with ISO standards. And our dispatchers achieved a perfect score on our ability to send and receive alarms.”
Of course, firefighters need water to put out blazes – and that's where the city's Utilities Department factors into ISO's rating system.
“We do all we can to maintain the water distribution system to make sure the water's there when YFD needs to fight a fire,” said Jay Simonton, utilities director. “We go above and beyond what's merely required to make sure the water's there when they need it most.”
Also during Wednesday's meeting, Wilkinson recognized Mike Walton, who was designated as a “Fire Officer” by the Commission on Professional Credentialing.
Wilkinson noted while the certification is a six-month process, it was the cumulative result of Walton's 20-year career.
Walton is one of only two in Arizona and 125 in the country and a testament to the professionalism of YFD, Wilkinson said.